RABAT – Thirteen years after first donning the South African kit, Bridgitte Hartley walk out as flag-bearer for her country at the closing ceremony of the African Games on Saturday.
“For me it’s a great honour,” Hartley, a veteran of three Olympic Games and hoping to extend that run to four in Tokyo next year, said after finishing a successful campaign in Morocco, where she teamed up with Donna Hutton and picked up gold in the K2 200 and 500m events as well as being part of the K4 500m team which also won gold.
“After all these years it’s the first time that I’ve been selected as a flag-bearer for my country. It’s an honour and something that I will always treasure. This is my second African Games and although I’ve competed in many African Championships in canoeing itself, taking part in a multi-code event like this is special.
“I always wear my national kit with pride and to see us lining up against other African nations is also a proud moment. As an athlete one can never take anything for granted and after I won bronze at the 2012 London Olympics, there was never any guarantee that I would carry on canoeing at the highest international level. But here I am, seven years later – and loving it.
“There’s definitely a difference between competing internationally as an individual and doing so in the colours of South Africa. It’s great to wear the kit and not only see it represented on the podium, but also on the water. We are not racing in some random kit, as happens as an individual. I love it, I really do.”