Durban - A team of determined canoe sprinters have arrived in Europe ready to take on the first two ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup events of the new season as they build towards the World Championships later in the year and hopefully Olympic qualification for next year.
The World Cups will take place over consecutive weekends in Poznan, Poland and then in Duisburg in Germany with the events giving the team of seven the opportunity to test their early season form.
With the two dates there will be two different squads going to each of the World Cups. Going to the first event in Poland will be Chrisjan Coetzee, Esti van Tonder and Kayla de Beer.
These three paddlers will be battling it out in the K1 200 metres and 500 metres over the weekend.
The team going to the second World Cup will be much larger with the three paddlers being joined by Bridgitte Hartley, Donna Hutton, Louis Hattingh and the men's K4 which includes Coetzee, David Rodrigues, Nick Weeks and Dawie Gerber.
"I am really looking forward to the start of the international racing season," Coetzee said. "Obviously the main goal for this year is to peak at the World Championships in August.
"These two World Cups are going to be a good gauge to see where I am at the moment in my training and I want to try and better my K1 200 metre performances from last year's World Championships."
"I will also be doing the 500 metre K1 but the main focus this year will be the 200 metre K1."
It has been a busy year already for the sprinters who had the SA Cup's in East London in March and for Esti van Tonder she feels that she is in a good space following those events.
"I learnt some hard lessons at the SA Cups and I did some serious soul searching between the two events and I feel that I have mentally matured a lot heading into this season.
"An A Final is always the goal but with this year being an Olympic qualification year it isn't going to be the same on the World Cup circuit.
"The level is a lot more intense so it is going to be a great platform for me to gauge where I am heading into the World Champs.
"It's going to be a challenge but I am looking forward to it because I have been paddling PB's recently and we are going to go and give it our all," she said.
South African sprint queen Bridgitte Hartley will also return to the squad for the German leg of the World Cups.
The two-time World Championship medallist will be paddling in a K2 with Donna Hutton.
The pair will contest the 200 metre and 500 metre K2 events. Hutton will also take part in the 500 metre K1 race in Germany.
Louis Hattingh will return to international action too with appearances in the K1 men's 1000 metre and 500 metre races.
Van Tonder will take on both the 200 metre and 500 metre K1 races in Duisburg as well as the K2 500 metre mixed race with Coetzee. De Beer will compete in the 200 metre K1 race again in Germany.
Coetzee will repeat the same races as Poznan, but he will compete in the 500 metre K2 mixed race with Van Tonder and will also join the men's K4 for the vent due to absence of Mike Arthur.
More information can be found at www.canoesa.org.za
ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup Poznan, Poland May 23-26 2019
Esti van Tonder - K1 200m/500m
Chrisjan Coetzee - K1 200m/500m
Kayla de Beer - K1 200m
ICF Canoe Sprint World Cup Duisburg, Germany May 31-June 2 2019
Esti van Tonder - K1 200m/500m K2 500 Mixed
Chrisjan Coetzee - K1 200m/500m K2 500 Mixed
Kayla de Beer - K1 200m
Louis Hattingh - K1 1000m/500m
Donna Hutton - K1 500m K2 200m/500m
Bridgitte Hartley - K2 200m/500m
David Rodrigues/Nick Weeks/Dawie Gerber/Chrisjan Coetzee - K4 500m