South Africa’s “Golden Girl” of sprint canoeing, Bridgitte Hartley, has qualified for the London 2012 Olympics in the K1 (one-person per boat) women’s 500m event.

She had to place in the top eight in the world in 2011 to qualify for the Olympics. Hartley placed 10th but was lucky enough to qualify when two competitors who placed ahead of her qualified for the team events and dropped out.

Flat-water kayaking places its participants in eight or nine lanes, where they race in heats, semi-finals and then finals. The qualification from semi-finals to finals is made according to a place and not times. Hartley also participated in the 2008 Beijing Olympics where she had to race in a K2 (a two-person boat). She managed to reach the semi-finals having only practiced with her partner for three months prior to the event. Hartley tells Perdeby she thinks it was a good achievement to make it as far as the semi-finals after such a short time in a team boat.

According to Hartley, the reward of standing on a podium for South Africa is a wonderful feeling and is something she is aiming to achieve.

Hartley’s rise to the top of the sport is surprising considering she was not too keen on sprint canoeing when she first started out. “I was introduced to river paddling by my dad late in high school. I started training more for rivers in university when I was studying at Tuks. I thought sprinting would be boring and I rather wanted to race rivers in South Africa. But I did some sprint training and then saw it was making me faster so I continued and represented South Africa for the first time in 2006 in Hungary at the World Championships,” she told Perdeby.

Hartley will will race in two world cups before returning to South Africa as part of preparation for the Games. The first was last week in Poland (18-20 May) and this week she will participate in Germany (25-27 May).

Hartley will be back on home ground for two weeks and will then depart for training camps in Austria and Hungary until the start of the Olympics. See more photos of Bridgitte in action @ pPerdeby7412d.

Photo provided

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