Words: Samantha Braid ǀ Photos: Jane Ballott & Riaan Steyn
victorious SA wins Canoe Polo African Champs
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The weekend of 22 and 23 September 2013 saw
the African Canoe Polo Championships being held at Olympia swimming pool in Windhoek, Namibia.
The championships doubled as a qualifier for the 11th ICF Canoe Polo World Championships 2014 to be held in Thury-Harcourt, France. Despite a cold front passing over the desert town, the weather was hot, just like the competition on the aqua pitch. After a 14-year absence of international competitions in Namibia, the friendly hosts accommodated the South African National Senior Men, Senior Ladies, U21 teams, as well as a Senior Men's team and U21 Development team from the Western Cape. The competition between the national teams was fierce, especially amongst the National U21 squads, as they battled it out for a slot at the 2014 World Championships. Played on a best-of-three format, the second game in the U21 category was a particularly nail-biting game, eventually going to overtime and a golden goal. The Namibians desperately tried to keep in the running, but in the end, it was the South African U21s who were the stronger team on the day, winning all three of the qualifying games. The SA Senior Men and Ladies also won their three qualifying games, securing their nomination for a slot at the World Championships.
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Greg Smale, Head of Canoe Polo at the
Canoeing Federation (ICF), made a whirlwind visit from the UK, to watch
the tournament and provide some coaching tips to the various teams.
He pointed out that while a team may be the best at the continental qualifier, they may be ordinary at the World Champs. With canoe polo played in more than 65 countries around the world, the South African teams are going to face some tough competition at the World Championships and will have to raise their level over the next year, to ensure their competitiveness on the world stage. The tournament also included a development aspect to it. The Western Cape U21 Development team used the tournament to gain international exposure and experience top-level canoe polo. The team benefitted from several coaching sessions with various top-level players and teams, as well as from Greg Smale. Although the team participated in their first-ever canoe polo game at the tournament, the experience and coaching they received was well worth the trip. As one of the players commented, “What we learnt from the tournament will take us from being good polo players to great polo players.”
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The tournament provided a steep but valuable learning curve and experience for the Development squad, who
have already eagerly increased their training in preparation for the SA Championships, to be held at Shongweni Dam, in KwaZuluNatal, from 21 to 23 March 2014. •
South Africa’s Senior Men’s team won the first test 5-1; the second test 9-0; and the third test 8-4. South Africa's Senior Women’s team won the first test 14-1; the second test 6-0; and the third test 9-0. South Africa's U21 Men’s team won the first test 4-3; the second test 5-4; and third test 9-2.
Canoe polo is played in an Olympic-size pool, with a kayak and canoe polo ball. There are five players on each side and the objective of the game is to score goals in a goal cage, which is suspended two metres above the water. Canoe polo is a fast and action-packed contact sport and players are allowed to tackle their opponent when in possession of the ball. Canoe Polo is one of several sporting disciplines that form part of the International Canoe Federation, but not many countries in Africa compete in it.
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Published on Oct 3, 2013
DO IT NOW Magazine. Water Sports. The weekend of 22 and 23 September 2013 saw the African Canoe Polo Championships being held at Olympia swi...