canoe squad
Photo Credit: Canoeing SA / Gameplan Media

South African river racers are prepping for a big weekend ahead as spots for the 2024 Olympics are up for grabs; determiners of the canoe squad we’ll see in green and gold in Paris:


Victoria Lake, South Africa (20 March 2024) — With the 2024 Olympics looming, the four South Africans representing the canoeing team in Paris are set to be decided at the South African Sprint Canoe Championships on Victoria Lake in Gauteng from Friday to Sunday this weekend!

Four athletes will emerge from the men’s and women’s 500m K2 races, respectively, as the canoe squad is set to represent SA in Paris. But, there is plenty of intrigue about the selections, with a block of river and marathon paddlers opting for a last-minute bid for Olympic glory.

A total of five South African sprint teams will be chosen from the results of the SA Champs regatta this weekend. While the Paris Olympic canoe squad is the big-news team, squads for the Senior World Championships, World Cup events, the Junior and U23 World Championships, and the Olympic Hopes international development regatta are also being selected off the weekend results.

South Africa has already qualified four kayakers for the Paris Olympics after both the respective men’s and women’s K2 500m crews of Chrisjan Coetzee and Nicholas Weeks, and Esti Olivier and Helen Jansen van Vuuren emerged as African champions in the Olympic qualifying event held on Jabi Lake in Abuja, Nigeria, late last year.

The format for qualification meant the four paddlers – two K2 500m crews – booked places for South Africa on the start line in Paris, and this weekend the selectors will decide which paddlers fill those four places.

Not surprisingly, the Coetzee / Weeks combination will line up as the favourites to fill the two men’s places if they can win the 500m K2 races this weekend, but at least one of Olivier or Jansen van Vuuren will not be going to Paris – and all four paddlers who booked the spots for South African could miss out.

The lure of Olympic glory means a few crews from outside the traditional sprinting community have opted to paddle the trials and some big names from the river, marathon and surfski racing formats will have the traditional flatwater paddlers worried.

Some familiar names and river warriors like 14-time Dusi winner and former World Marathon Champion Andy Birkett is teaming up with Hamish Lovemore, and they pose a serious threat to Coetzee and Weeks, while veteran 11-time World Marathon Champion Hank McGregor and Uli Hart have the speed and determination to cause a surprise.

In the women’s race, Esti Olivier spent months in Europe last year gaining experience and attempting to qualify for the 2024 Olympics, before teaming up with Jansen van Vuuren to win the African Champs and grab the last qualifying spot available.

However, the pair will not be paddling together on Victoria Lake this weekend. Olivier will be teaming up with Tiffany Koch, and they are the crew most likely to claim South Africa’s place on the start line in Paris in August, while Van Vuuren has partnered with Amy Duffett, and they are sure to be challengers.

However, as with the men’s selection, there is a wildcard crew that could steal the limelight away from the flatwater specialists. The Saskia Hockly and Christie Mackenzie combination is one of the most exciting crews in South African women’s paddling at the moment and the current SA K2 river champions are supremely talented and could well be heading for Paris later this year.

Needless to say, a very exciting weekend on the water lies ahead!

Sources: Supplied; Gameplan Media 
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Ashleigh Nefdt is a writer for Good Things Guy.

Ashleigh's favourite stories have always seen the hidden hero (without the cape) come to the rescue. As a journalist, her labour of love is finding those everyday heroes and spotlighting their spark - especially those empowering women, social upliftment movers, sustainability shakers and creatives with hearts of gold. When she's not working on a story, she's dedicated to her canvas or appreciating Mother Nature.

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