Paddling her own canoe

28 October 2002
Medals flowing like rivers: Bronwen Richardson has won gold medals at both Berg River and Fish River canoe marathons.

TIRED of having to recruit suitable K2 teammates, UCT canoeist Bronwen Richardson signed herself up for a six-month training camp to learn the ins-and-outs of K1 (individual) racing, and then, in quick succession, paddled herself to gold medals in the under-21 women's events at the 2002 Berg River and Fish River canoe marathons.

Richardson completed the 200-km plus, four-day Berg River challenge – described as an event that “devours body and soul” – in a sprightly 20 hours, 37 minutes and 18 seconds.

Over the weekend of October 4-5, she – albeit against a small K1 field – took top honours again at the Fish River Marathon, covering the 81.8-km in 07:06:33.

Not only did her efforts at the Berg River Marathon earn the debutante the coveted gold medal, but also earned her the respect of her more seasoned peers. “They were all so impressed that someone so young did so well,” recalls the 19-year old physiotherapy student.

And the small contingent at the Fish River event – it was a K2 year, she pointed out – did nothing to diminish the joy of winning gold again. “I didn't have much competition, but for me it was still a really big achievement,” she says.

Richardson took up canoeing around four years ago, partly as a means of recovery from a serious back injury – two stress fractures – but also attracted by the sport's edgy nature.

“It's got that extreme element to it, but at the same time it requires hard training, which is what I like,” she explains.

Until last year, she competed only in K2 events – which came with the hassle of having to track down teammates – but now enjoys the freedom of the K1 events, and has set herself a couple of new goals. This includes working towards a place at the World Student Games.

“This isn't something that I'll just leave when I finish my studies,” she says of her commitment to the sport.

“And it combines really well with my career in physiotherapy.”

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