19 June 2014
A powerful South African team, which includes a number of world champions, was named to contest the 2014 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships on Wednesday. The event takes place in Oklahoma City from 23 to 28 September.
A host of big-name competitors made a charge for a spot on the plane to the USA when they recently took part in the biggest South African Canoe Marathon Championships ever and it was three-time canoe marathon world champion Hank McGregor who won the men’s K1 title, as well as the K2 crown with his partner Jasper Mocke.
With the criteria stating that the top two in each of the senior and junior events would be selected for the South African team, reigning under-23 K1 world champion Andy Birkett missed out on a K1 selection.
However, he and partner Greg Louw earned selection in a K2. Although Birkett and Louw were third in the South African Championships, they gained selection due to former Junior and under-23 world champion Grant van Der Walt being unavailable for the Tour.
“Grant has been studying recently and so he hasn’t been focusing on his paddling, which meant that he made himself unavailable for selection,” Brett Austen Smith, the Chairman of the South African Canoe Marathon Committee, said in a statement on Wednesday. “That ultimately meant that we could include Andy (Birkett) and Greg (Louw) in the side to go to Oklahoma.
“This really highlights the depth in the senior men’s canoe marathon discipline [in South Africa]. With a world champion unable to make the men’s K1 team, that just shows the strength that we possess,” he added.
The women’s team will be made up of one K1 competitor and two K2 pairs, with Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley being the only women’s K1 and Abby Adie and Laura O’Donoghue making up the one K2, with under-23 K1 hopeful Jenna Ward and Hayley Arthur partnering up in the second women’s K2.
“Bridgitte was in a class of her own in the K1 final,” Austen Smith said of the Natal Canoe Club star’s South African Championships victory by over four minutes.
“The depth in women’s canoe marathon paddling is not where it was a year ago and this is something we as a Committee need to address in the build-up to 2017,” he explained.
In the Junior Girls’ category, the winning boat won’t be going to Oklahoma as, unfortunately, the junior K2 team made themselves unavailable for selection because one of the girls, who is still in the under-16 age category, has a hectic schedule. Having recently been to the African Youth Games in Botswana, she is also set to head to China in August for the Youth Olympics.
“It is a little disappointing not being able to see them race at World Champs,” Austen Smith said. Nonetheless, the South African team, ranked fifth in the world last year, remains very strong and Austen Smith is confident that there are good paddlers coming through, with the under-23 age group being one to watch from a men’s point of view, he said.
“The Under-23 men are very strong this year and I think that both Brandon van der Walt and Stuart Maclaren are world-class paddlers and I believe that we can do really well there,” he opined.
“We will be strong in the seniors again, as well as the masters. We will send a very strong field to the World Champs in the masters’ categories, and this year should be no different, although it is not the biggest team we have sent to a World Champs,” Austen Smith concluded.
SA WORLD CANOE MARATHON CHAMPIONSHIPS TEAM
Hank McGregor (K1, K2), Jasper Mocke (K1, K2), Andrew Birkett (K2), Greg Louw (K2)
Bridgitte Hartley (K1), Nikki Russel (K1), Abby Adie (K2), Laura O’Donoghue (K2), Jenna Ward (K2), Hayley Arthur (K2) Nikki Russel
Brandon van der Walt (K1), Stuart Maclaren (K1)
Jenna Ward (K1), Brittany Petersen (K1)
Bryan Leroux (K1, K2), Louis Hattingh (K1, K2), Jean van der Westhuizen (K2), Stuart Bristow (K2)
Julia Trodd (K1), Martine Beukes (K1)
Marion Young (K1, K2), Gustav Smook (K1, K2), Gustav Radloff (K1, K2), Katarzyna Lapacz (K1), Hilde Lapere (K1), Lee McGregor (K1, K2), Alan Hold (K1, K2), Chris van den Berg (K1), John Evans (K1, K2) Len Jenkins Snr (K1), Nigel Briggs (K2), Cathy Doherty-Bigara (K2), Linton Hope (K1)