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After winning the team event women's title in 2019 Maties honours student Tracey Oellermann is keen to race back onto the Berg River Canoe Marathon women's podium. Picture: JOHN HISIN/FUNKY PANTS/GAMEPLAN MEDIA
After winning the team event women's title in 2019 Maties honours student Tracey Oellermann is keen to race back onto the Berg River Canoe Marathon women's podium. Picture: JOHN HISIN/FUNKY PANTS/GAMEPLAN MEDIA

After winning the 2019 Berg River Canoe Marathon in the team format with Melissa van Rooyen, Stellenbosch student Tracey Oellermann is looking forward to her third Berg, and hoping to race back onto the women’s podium.

The BSc performance sport science honours student finished fourth in 2021 against a strong women’s field and says she hopes to go one better, despite the intense demands of her studies this year.

“I’m really excited for this year’s Berg,” said Oellermann. “I saw the entries open and although my honours degree is very demanding and I knew fitting in training would be difficult, it was still a race I had to enter.

“This year will be a big challenge because I definitely haven’t had the time to put any distance training in,” she admitted. “I’ve been nonstop in my studies and haven’t been able to train as much, so I’ll be using this race as base training for the year ahead.

“That being said, I’ll still be chasing that women’s podium and anything can happen,” the Maties student said.

“It looks like there will be a lot of top competitors in the women’s field. It’s really exciting to see more women enter. It is a tough race but it is doable and a lot of fun throughout the weekend.”

Oellermann won the women’s title at the season-opening race from Paarl to Skooltjie, which was gifted last-minute rains that filled the Berg River to an ideal paddling level.

She would be happy to confront the tough prospect of a low Berg in 2022. “We haven’t had any real rain in the Cape yet so no-one has tripped and I don’t think anyone will really be able to trip if we don’t get rain soon, so everyone will be in the same position.

“I would prefer a really low Berg,” she said. “I’ve done it flooding and at a perfect level so it would be exciting to have the challenge of a low Berg and hopefully a lot of tree blocks, which makes the racing interesting.

“The Berg is so physically and mentally challenging and it really pushes you to dig deep and I love putting myself in positions where I can challenge myself,” she added. “In the end, crossing the finish line is very rewarding.

“Every paddler that reaches that finish line has accomplished so much and the Berg canoe marathon has been so well organised these past few years, making the race a really good vibe to be a part of and worth it.”

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