25 September 2012
Grant van der Walt grabbed his third world title in six years as he clinched a sensational victory in the under-23 men’s K1 race at the World Marathon Championships on the Tiber River in Rome on Friday.
The South African’s sheer strength saw him prevail in a thrilling end sprint as he held off the challenge of Portugese Olympic sprinter Fernando Pimenta and the rest of an 11-man bunch, including his younger brother Brandon, who had entered the sixth and final portage in the bunch.
The victory was Van der Walt’s second under-23 title, following on his win in in 2009 and an under-18 gold medal in 2007.
‘All about heart’
“That win was all about heart,” his father Bill van der Walt said after the race. “The boys had to dig really deep and I’m so proud of what they both achieved.”
“In many ways it was a lot harder to win this year than in 2009. It’s taken a lot of work and dedication to get them to where they are today,” he added.
The medal was the second of the day for South Africa and Team Best 4 Kayak Centre after Dusi champ Robyn Kime captured a silver medal on her debut at the World Marathon Championships.
Unfancied and unseeded
After starting unfancied and unseeded in the outside lane, Kime systematically shook off her more fancied opponents until she was left in a two-boat end sprint with defending champ Eva Barrios of Spain.
The medals triggered jubilation in South African canoeing circles, with congratulations pouring in from fellow paddlers, supporters and team mates throughout the country on social network, Twitter.
“@robynkime great work in your race today! Well well done, I am super excited for your silver in U/23 world marathon champs,” tweeted Olympic bronze medalist Brigitte Hartley.
“Well done @robynkime, silver U23 world champs. Excellent!!” tweeted Kime’s team mate Abby Adie.
“@GrantvanderWalt u23 world champion, (need I) say more. #HardWorkPaysOff,” added Barry Lewin.
Dubious tactics and decisions
Unfortunately for South Africa, after the team’s excellent results in the age group races, they were the victims of some dubious tactics and decisions in the men’s K1 race.
Both defending champion Hank McGregor and Len Jenkins challenged strongly throughout, but the winding course of the Tiber River led to some competitors resorting to dirty tactics out of sight of officials, including whacking their opposition with their paddles.
McGregor was third across the finishing line and protests and counter-protests soon followed. Ultimately, the South Africans were disqualified as the influence of Spanish and Portuguese officials won out.
Alex Cole managed a fifth place in the women’s race, and McGregor and Van der Walt ended fifth in the men’s K2 race as South Africa were unable to add to their medal-winning efforts in the age group races.
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