London – Bridgitte Hartley celebrated women's day in the best possible way – with a few tears of joy and a bronze medal.

The 500m kayaker from Richard's Bay paddled to South Africa's first ever Olympic canoeing medal when she claimed third against a strong field of some of the legends of the sport at Eton Dorney on Thursday.

The 29-year-old overcame a very slow start to power her way back from sixth off the line to edge out Italian four-time Olympic medallist in this event Josefa Idem and finish just behind Hungarian Danuta Kozak and Ukranian Inna Osypenko-Radomska.

"I was not too worried about the start. I knew I had to race my own race because I knew I had a strong finish," she said after getting off the water. "It really hurt at half way. All you can do is push on and push on.

"When I crossed the line I did not know where I had finished ... I saw the Hungarian shouting and I thought well she definitely got it, then the Ukranian came up and then it said South Africa and I did not want to celebrate because there may be a photo finish."

"I need a holiday, definitely a holiday. My body needs one – so does my brain."

Tomorrow young Tiffany Kruger gets her chance in the 200m, but she has been brought to London more with an eye on Rio in 2016 so even a B final would be seen as a major success for the young star of the future. – IOL