22 September 2008
South Africa’s tradition of excellence in canoe marathon competitions was upheld at the World Championships held in the Czech Republic over the weekend as the country won three medals, including gold in the men’s K2 race.
Ant Stott and Cam Schoeman ended the Rainbow Nation’s challenge at the championships on a high with a stunning gold medal in the men’s K2 competition, just a day after Stott had won a bronze medal in the K1 event.
The duo fought off spirited challenges from crews from Spain and Hungary to win the end-sprint at the end of a riveting and highly competitive contest.
Stott and Schoeman were dominant throughout the fiercely competitive men’s K2 race, held on another very cold day. Their skill running with the boat and their speed off-the-mark allowed them to dictate tactics going into and coming out of the portages. They also conserved energy by riding the wave of the other boats on the front bunch.
There were seven boats together at the front after three laps, with the South Africans and the Hungarian duo of Attila Jambor and Mate Petrovics controlling tactics. By the end of the fourth portage the front group had been whittled down to four, with the Hungarians becoming surprising casualties of the dog-eat-dog racing.
However, they fought back gallantly and, coming out of the final portage, the race for the world title was reduced to four crews – South Africa, Hungary, Spain and the Czech Republic.
Stott and Schoeman worked hard for a slight advantage coming into the final sprint to the line to hold off the Spaniards, Guerrero and Alonso, and the Hungarian crew of Jambor and Petrovics.
The South African crew of Graeme Solomon and Lance King were not far behind the front bunch and finished in a tight group contesting tenth place. Ultimately, they had to settle for thirteenth.
It is the first time that a South African crew has won a K2 World Championships title. Previously, Hank McGregor won the K1 world title in Spain in 2003 and Shaun Rubenstein won in the same category in France in 2006. In 2005, in Australia, the women’s crew of Alexa Lombard and Donia Kamstra won the silver medal in the K2 race, while Grant Van Der Walt won the junior K1 title last year.
On Sunday, in the junior races, the talented crew of Ben Biggs and Stuart Waterworth were well in contention, racing in the front bunch, before Waterworth started battling to breathe in the very cold racing conditions. They fell off the front bunch and eventually had to withdraw from the race on the third lap to seek medical help.
After receiving oxygen from the on-site medical personnel, a disappointed Waterworth was discharged. The other South African crew in the race Clinton Cook and his partner Stu McLaren finished in ninth place.
In the girls’ race the Amanzimtoti pairing of Lauren Felgate and Jenna Ward spent most of their race in the fourth bunch and went on to secure fifteenth place.
Injury led to the withdrawal of the South African C2 crew of Calvin Mokoto and Radoslaw Olszewski. Their race ended on the third lap with Olszewski battling with a recurrent leg injury.
On Saturday, the opening day of the championships, defending junior world champ Grant van der Walt claimed silver, while Ant Stott picked up a bronze medal in the senior K1 race in testing, very cold conditions, with a steady wind that aggravated the wind chill factor.
Stott raced superbly in the fast-paced men’s race and eventually settled into a three-boat breakaway at the front on the fourth lap with defending world champion Emilio Merchan of Spain and Czech star Jonas Saelens.
The key break came at the last portage on lap six, where Stott was dropped by Merchan and Saelens, who then started a two-boat race for the world title, with the Spaniard defending his title by half a boat length. Stott finished 50 metres further back.
It was a second bronze medal for Stott at the World Marathon Championships, following his third behind Hank McGregor’s victory in Spain in 2003.
Van der Walt went into the boys’ K1 race as the favourite after an emphatic victory last year. His title defence was hampered by a bad start that saw him languishing in the third bunch, and dangerously out of contact with the leaders at the first portage.
However, his persistence paid off as he worked his way through the field and back into the front bunch going into the penultimate lap.
After four laps of breakneck speed racing Van der Walt and the British athlete Ed Rutherford managed to shake off the determined Hungarians, Peter Hamar and Milan Noe, to set up a two-boat race for the honours.
The British paddler enjoyed a better showing on the last portage and went into the final paddle to the finish with a short lead.
Van der Walt backed himself as he kicked at the 250-metre mark, trying to make up the ground he lost on the last portage, but the young Briton was up to the challenge and pulled away in the closing stages to win the title by half a boat length.
“I am stoked with the silver medal,” said Van der Walt afterwards. “After my shocking start, I thought there was no way I’d even get onto the front bunch, let alone win a medal, so I am really satisfied with second place.”
His younger brother Brandon, racing in his first World Championships, finished fourteenth, seven minutes behind his sibling.
In the girls’ race Cape ace Bianca Beavitt ended eighth after having spent much of the race in a four-boat chasing bunch that was trying to reel in the talented pair of Hungarians at the front.
From being fifth at the last portage, Beavitt was out-sprinted by the others in the group as the athletes fighting for fifth place all finished within four seconds of one another, with Beavitt left trailing 20 seconds further back.
The South African team jets home this week, having securing seven medals in the Masters Cup event that precedes the senior and junior world championships, and the two medals in the K1 races.
- 1. Ant Stott/Cam Schoeman RSA 2:02:14
- 2. Jorge Alonso/Santiago Guererro ESP 2:02.15
- 3. Attila Jambor/Petrovics HUN 2:02.15
- 4. Thomas Horak/Petr Skala CZE 2:02.15
- 5. Marcio Pinto/Pedro Gomes POR 2:03.05
- 13. Graeme Solomon/Lance King RSA 2:07.57
JUNIOR GIRLS K2
- 1. Susanna Cicali/Roberta Fiorini ITA 1:38.25
- 2. Martina Vichova/Monika Machova CZE 1:38.46
- 3. Alexandra Georgopoulous/Ramona Farkasdi HUN 1:40.37
- 15. Lauren Felgate/Jenna Ward RSA 1:49.11
JUNIOR BOYS K2
- 1. Ed Rutherford/Thomas Hide GBR 1:27.48
- 2. Toon Broekx/Maarten Vervliet BEL 1:28.19
- 3. Peter Holicza/Gabor Mathe HUN 1:28.33
- 9. Clinton Cook/Stuart McLaren RSA 1:32.41
- 1. Edvin Csabai/Attila Gyore HUN 1:53.53
- 2. Ramon Ferro/Oscar Grana ESP 1:54.32
- 3. Angel Christian Rivademer/David Mascato ESP 1:55.49
- 1. Anne Lolk/Henriette Hansen DEN 1:53.42
- 2. Renata Csay/Berenike Faldum HUN 1:53.43
- 3. Judit Kollar/Follath Vivien HUN 1:57.58
- 7. Lindi-May Harmsen/Abi Adie RSA 2:02.46
- 1. Emilio Merchan ESP
- 2. Jonas Saelens CZE
- 3. Ant Stott RSA
- 19. Gavin White RSA
- 1. Edvin Csabai HUN 2:04.40
- 2. Nikicia Ljubek CRO 2:07.15
- 3. Zsolt Gilanya HUN 2:08.07
- 4. Matthias Ebhardt GER 2:08.36
- 5. Thomas Simart FRA 2:08.56
- 16. Calvin Mokoto RSA 2:27.58
- 1. Vivien Follath HUN 2:01.04
- 2. Lani Belcher AUS 2:01.19
- 3. Anna Adamova CZE 2:03.23
- 4. Mara Santos ESP 2:03.42
- 5. Judit Kollar HUN 2:04.03
- 10. Bridgitte Hartley 2:06.39
- 1. Ed Rutherford GBR 1:33.32
- 2. Grant van der Walt RSA 1:33.33
- 3. Peter Hamar HUN 1:35.21
- 4. Milan Noe HUN 1:35.40
- 5. Martin Larsen DEN 1:36.11
- 14. Brandon van der Walt RSA 1:40.43
- 1. Orsolya Groholy HUN 1:44.37
- 2. Eszter Havas HUN 1:44.47
- 3. Ana Roxana Lehaci AUT 1:48.23
- 4. Martina Vichova CZE 1:49.10
- 5. Maria Corbera ESP 1:49.26
- 8. Bianca Beavitt RSA 1:50.19
- 19. Kerry Malan RSA 1:59.27
Source: Canoeing South Africa