After lodging an early entry in a K1 for the 2020 Dusi Canoe Marathon from 27-29 February South African paddling queen Bridgitte Hartley has found a more than willing partner for next year’s race in young Maties student Tracey Oellermann.
Hartley has had a busy 2019 which will conclude with the Cape Point Challenge surfski race in Cape Town. She became the first South African to take part in three paddling world championship events this year with appearances at the Canoe Sprint, Surfski and Marathon World Championships.
After the Cape Point Challenge it’s back to river focus for Hartley and Oellermann. It was a combination that came about through chance.
“I wasn’t originally available to paddle the Fezela Challenge when Tracey asked me but things came together and we paddled together and it felt right,” Euro Steel’s Hartley said. “The combination felt good and so we made the decision then and there to paddle Dusi together.
“It was getting close to Dusi and I had so much going on so it was great when we were able to lock that combination down.”
The pair has hit the ground running in their preparation for the 2020 Dusi and will have a fair amount of time to prepare before Oellermann has to return to Stellenbosch for her studies in the new year.
“I went and spent some time with her and her family in Winterton where we did some flat water training and some running so we have got our preparation underway.
“Things have moved quite quickly for us but we make a good team on and off the water which has been great.
“After Christmas we will have the whole of January together and that will mean Tracey staying with me in Pietermaritzburg or me going up and staying with her in Winterton.”
Oellermann finished sixth in the ladies K1 race in 2019 and sixth as a junior in 2018 with Epworth school mate Cara Waud. She has the ability and the drive to do well at the Dusi and Hartley sees that as a strong similarity between the two.
“She is very motivated to do well and I have seen how far she has come in her paddling,” Hartley mentioned. “She is very strong in the boat behind me and we aren’t putting any pressure on ourselves to win.
“We want to do as well as we can and if we could win then that would be fantastic!”
There should be very little doubting their ability in a boat together and Hartley was relieved that they clicked automatically. Running wise, she knows that they are going to have to work hard.
“I feel that you can’t coach people to paddle together and luckily for us we fit together well.
“I do think that the running is something that we can improve on and the more hours we put in the better we will get which is exciting going into the next two months before the Dusi,” she added.
The 2020 Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place for 27 to 29 February 2020.