First-time winners in Berg Marathon

16 July 2013

After four days and 240 kilometres of paddling, Lance King claimed his maiden win in South Africa’s Berg River Canoe Marathon, while Jenna Ward picked up her first win in the women’s race in Velddrif in the Western Cape on Sunday.

Nerves were rife ahead of the final stage’s commencement as a last minute decision forced paddlers to take a three-kilometre portage around a water hyacinth block shortly after the start of the stage, leaving most unsure of what to expect and how the action would unfold.

Pierre-Andre Rabie led the charge and gained an important lead after the run, enough for him to take a memorable stage victory and fourth place overall.

Graeme Solomon was unable to match Lance King, who finished third on the day after leading overnight, forcing Solomon to settle for second place overall, while under-23 star Ivan Kruger claimed the final step on the podium.

‘Seven years in the making’

“I’m just really excited right now,” said King afterwards. “It’s been seven years in the making, so it’s a very special moment for me.

“The reality hit me with about 10 kilometres to go and, thankfully, it was the quickest final 10 kilometres of my life to the finish line.

“It’s been a different kind of Berg,” he continued. “We’ve never done a Berg with a three kilometre portage before, so I’m just glad I was the stronger man on the day and was able to stay with the guys at the front.

“After the portage there were four of us together and that’s when we decided to put the hammer down. We tried to see if we could get Ivan (Kruger) up to second, but we lost it a bit at the end, so then I just enjoyed the moment.

Second bunch

A disappointed yet gracious Solomon crossed the finish line in the stage’s second bunch of four with Louw van Riet, Edgar Boehm Jnr. and Ben Brown to claim yet another Berg podium finish.

“Ben (Brown) and I had a terrible take-out at the portage and sunk almost up to our neck in mud. By the time we got going again the others were gone and I knew then that that was that,” said Solomon.

“The tree block on stage two was definitely the turning point, but no excuses now. Hats off to Lance for his win.

“Well done to Ivan as well. A while back I recognised his talent and said he’d be one to watch. He has all the tools to go on to win 10 Bergs in his career, so this is just the start for him,” he added.

Under-23 star

Apart from his third place finish overall, Kruger also claimed the under-23 men’s category. However, it was his efforts in the senior competition that were particularly pleasing for the youngster.

“I’d hoped to try close the gap to Graeme, but I’m still hugely happy with third. I had a horrible first day, which counted against me because it meant I was on my own the entire way on day two, but I felt strong these last two days and I’m happy to be on the podium,” said Kruger.

“It’s been a big season for me. It’s been my jump season and the one where I’ve made my mark in the senior category, so this result is part of a good whole season for me.”

Rabie’s stage four victory handed him a pleasing fourth place overall, while the fascinating battle between Van Riet and Boehm for fifth position and the final gold medal saw van Riet just do enough to hold off a charging Boehm at the finish.

Crowd favourite

Brown claimed seventh while crowd favourite and father of nine-time race winner Hank McGregor, Lee McGregor narrowly hung onto eighth position despite Sbonelo Zondi’s final day’s charge in his first ever appearance at the race.

“I was fine after day one and two, but I was sore yesterday morning and this morning I could hardly move,” said the 61-year-old after becoming the first over-50 year old to finish inside the top 10 at the event.

“I got a SMS from Hank this morning, though, saying ‘I’m with you every metre of the way dad’ and that’s all that got me through today.”

Women’s race

KZN under-23 talent Jenna Ward endured a nervy final stage, but hung on to claim the women’s title ahead of Kirsten Penderis and Joritha Prins.

With nearly two minutes in the bag from her third stage efforts, Ward started the final day well with a remarkable performance on the three kilometre portage. The young star was, however, made to pay for her efforts midway through the stage as she watched Penderis destroy her three-and-a-half minute stage gap and had to work hard to stay with the Cape local in the dying stages of the race to hang onto victory.

“Kirsten caught me at Drie Huisies and I knew I just had to give whatever I had left to stay with her and make sure she didn’t close the gap I got on her yesterday,” said Ward.

‘Biggest moment’

“Fortunately I was able to do so and the win is probably the biggest moment of my paddling career so far.”

With Kruger having claimed the men’s under-23 title, the battle for second and third was left to Joseph Williams and Luke Stowman, with Williams claiming the runners-up position.

Ward claimed the under-23 women’s title, while Computershare Change a Life Academy member Mthobisi Cele and under-16 paddler Anya Botes were the first junior boy and girl across the line respectively.

RESULTS

MEN

    1. Lance King 17:17.29
    2. Graeme Solomon 17:21.19
    3. Ivan Kruger (u-23) 17:30.03
    4. Pierre-Andre Rabie 17:37.34
    5. Louw van Riet 17:39.56
    6. Edgar Boehm Jnr. 17:40.03
    7. Ben Brown 17:42.55
    8. Lee McGregor 18:00.13
    9. Sbonelo Zondi 18:02.44
    10. Gavin White 18:09.15

WOMEN

    1. Jenna Ward (u-23) 20:43.05
    2. Kirsten Penderis 20:45.01
    3. Joritha Prins
    4. Lisa Scott 22:49.18
    5. Juli Morris 22:54.40

U-23 Men

    1. Ivan Kruger 17:30.03
    2. Joseph Williams 18:38.39
    3. Luke Stowman 18:58.55

U-23 Women

    1. Jenna Ward 20:43.05

Junior Boys

    1. Mthobisi Cele 19:12.37
    2. Michael Farringer 19:27.50
    3. Michael Pretorius 19:54.18

Junior Girls

    1. Anya Botes 23:23.53

SAinfo reporter