WINDSOR, ENGLAND - AUGUST 09: Bronze MedallistBridgitte Hartley of South Africa celebrates during the medal ceremony for the Women's Kayak Single (K1) 500m Sprint on Day 13 of the London 2012 Olympic Games at Eton Dorney on August 9, 2012 in Windsor, England. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

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