Jarryd Gibson sets sights on Olympics

Name: Jarryd Gibson
Grade: 12
Age: 17
School: Maritzburg College
Ambition: to represent South Africa at the 2020 Tokyo Olympic Games

Jarryd Gibson will be representing South Africa in the K1 and K2 200mat the 2016 ICF Junior and Under-23 Canoe Sprint World Championships in Belarus in July.

The Maritzburg College man secured his place in the national team when he powered his way to victory in the K1 short sprint at the African Canoe Sprint Championships at Shongweni Dam at the beginning of April.

He admitted to stumbling into paddling when he moved to Maritzburg College in grade eight.

“When I came to College, I didn’t want to do cricket. I hated it with a passion,” he laughed in an interview this week.

Soon, though, he saw his friends achieving in the sport and he, too, wanted to do well. Also, College has an outstanding history in paddlesports and that influenced him, Jarryd said: “It did influence me, because I got to know them. At first they were just names, but then they became people I knew, like [world champions] Cam Schoeman, Ant Stott and Andy Birkett.”

Jarryd also discovered a very welcoming community when he began paddling at Natal Canoe Club at Camps Drift. “Everyone in paddling is humble,” she shared. “It is never about people thinking they are the best and must be respected. Respect is earned. You can get along with anyone and talk to them. I could go to Bridgitte Hartley and ask her for help and she would help me. Andy Birkett will help me. They all would. It’s nice.”

London 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Hartley has been particularly supportive, he added: “Bridgitte is great. I started taking paddling seriously and I know she is sponsored by Oakley and Braca [Paddles] and I asked her if she had a spare I could buy from her, because I was just starting out with sprints. She just gave it to me, and they cost about six grand! Bridgitte has helped me a huge amount with everything.”

Through his excellence, Jarryd has earned a place on the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Sport and Recreation’s Elite Athlete Development Programme and is also part of leading coach Craig Mustard’s HP Training, which is based at Natal Canoe Club at Camps Drift.

“It’s so close [to College], and with Craig’s programme the gym and the training are right there. We can run there, if we have to. It’s really good. If top paddlers, like Louis Hattingh, Jean van der Westhuyzen and Jakub Adam aren’t there, Craig’s out on the boat and he is pushing me. He has played a key role in my training,” Jarryd said.

Mustard, a former national sprint star, he continued, has been the pillar on which he has built his built his young career: “Without him, I wouldn’t be where I am. He has definitely been my shoulder to lean on. He has been there for me throughout. Before I started sprinting, I started training with Craig and he saw I could do it, so he started taking an interest in me. He gave me a boat to use and he showed me everything. Craig, really, has been great.”

Jarryd made the move from the 1 000 metres to 200 metres recently, when he finished second to Michaelhouse’s Jean van der Westhuyzen in the 1 000m, with only one place available at the World Champs. When he beat Van der Westhuyzen in the 200m, though, he had earned himself a place in the team to Belarus.

It has been quite a change, Jarryd admitted, with the requirements of the two races being completely different, but he is hoping for good things in the 200m in Belarus, where he will also contest the 200m K2 with Dylan Ceronio.

The trip overseas will be his first representing South Africa abroad. “I am quite excited for that. I am hoping for a B-Final. If things go to plan, maybe even an A-Final, because my times aren’t too slow. The goal is an A-Final. But it is my first time, so I mustn’t go there expecting to be the best,” he smiled.

Jarryd leaves for Belarus on July 24 and will return to South Africa on August.

The trip overseas will be his first representing South Africa abroad.

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