4 August 2015
South African canoeist and four-time K1 and K2 Dusi marathon winner Andy Birkett won a silver medal at the season-opening ICF Marathon World Cup at the Brandenburg an den Havel regatta in Germany on 2 August.
Following a three-boat battle for first place between Birkett, Hungarian Adam Petro and Belgian Dries Corrijn, an unexpected wake from an official’s boat helped Petro gain the upper hand by a boat length over Birkett at the finish line. But the South African was unperturbed, saying after the race: “I am chuffed with the medal.”
He added: “The pace was fast for the first hour-and-a-bit until we whittled it down to four paddlers. Soon it came down to the Hungarian, the Belgian and myself as we came into the last portage.
“I had a good last portage, and I pulled the last small lap into the finish line with the Hungarian on my side wave, and got caught out in the end sprint by the Hungarian.
“It was great racing, but more importantly it was awesome practice before the Worlds,” he added.
His silver ends a good weekend in Germany for the South African team. Birkett also won the new short marathon sprint event on Saturday, while teammates Greg Louw finished fourth in the same race, and Olympic sprint medallist Bridgitte Hartley won the women’s race.
Birkett won the national senior K1 marathon title in June and is a former under- 23 marathon world champion. He was happy with his time and placing in preparation for the Marathon World Champs in Gyor, Hungary in September, which will include several other major races in Europe.
The reigning world champion is fellow South African Hank McGregor.
This year is Birkett’s first participation in international competition and this first podium finish has been an inspiring start for the canoeist. However, he admitted to a bit of frustration during this first race, which he called “all a learning curve”.
His next race is the Sella Descent in Spain next week.