JOHANNESBURG – London 2012 Olympics bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley of South Africa finished third in the women’s 1000 metres at the ICF Canoe Sprint World Championships in Portugal yesterday.
Hartley produced a powerful paddle over the final 200 metres of the race and coming painstakingly close to bagging the silver medal.
Hungary’s Dora Bodonyi claimed a comfortable victory in the end, finishing first with time of four minutes, 02.892 seconds.
While Bodonyi gave herself some breathing space, Hartley and Britain’s Lizzie Broughton fought it out for the remaining two spots on the podium.
Broughton managed to stave off a storming effort from Hartley, winning silver by the narrowest of margins when clocking 4:03.927 to the South African’s 4:04.017.
“Oh my gosh, I can’t believe it,” she gushed. “That was one of my best comeback races of all time!
“I was coming up to the 500 metre mark feeling a bit doubtful. The British girl picked it up at the end and I expected her to die slightly, but she just didn’t die!
“I kept trying and trying and then I just figured, I have nothing left but I have to race her to the line, and we took the German girl out and got onto the podium!
“It’s so exciting to be back on the world stage,” she gushed.
It is Hartley’s third bronze medal at the Canoe Sprint World Championships and her second in the K1 1000m, adding to her podium finish at the 2009 Dartmouth championships.
She won the bronze medal in the K1 500m in Moscow in 2014, two years after she finished third at the London Games over the same distance.
It is the first me since the 2016 Rio Olympics that the 35-year-old Hartley has featured at a major sprint event.
She will again feature in the 500m event at the championships, where she is expected to challenge for another medal.
Hartley has set her sights on the longer distances, targeting the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Portugal in September.
South Africa has sent a team of nine paddlers to the world championships, where they will be looking to gain some valuable experience ahead of the start of the Olympic qualifying period in 2019.