Champs win fourth Fish in succession

1 October 2013

The Durban duo of Hank McGregor and Grant van der Walt claimed a record fourth successive K2 title in the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon on the weekend, while Abby Adie and Anna Adamova captured the womens’ title.

McGregor and van der Walt started the final day with a lead of over four minutes over second placed Ben Biggs and Alasdair Glass, and succeeded in maintaining their advantage throughout the 36km stretch from Knutsford to Cradock.

“We had a faultless day. It was a bit lonely and pretty cold, but we just looked to keep things conservative and not try be heroes and it all paid off in the end,” said recently crowned marathon world champion McGregor.

‘I’m very happy’

“Today was probably the best I have ever shot Cradock Weir and after that it was great to come home to get our fourth win in a row together and my fifth, so I’m very happy.”

“We had a really good weekend together,” added van der Walt. “We both weren’t feeling great coming into the weekend after all the travel [from the World Championships in Copenhagen back to South Africa] but it was great to be back at the Fish and the win is obviously great!”

While McGregor and van der Walt ran clear up front, there was a huge battle on for the remaining podium places.

Biggs and Glass bravely tried their best to hang onto their second place. However, pre-race title hopefuls Len Jenkins and Greg Louw and the top international duo of Tobias Bong of Germany and Tomas Slovak of the Czech Republic had other plans.

Charged through the field

Having charged through the field after starting the day in fifth place, Bong and Slovak proceeded to storm straight past Jenkins and Louw and into a probable second place finish, until disaster struck at the notorious Cradock Weir.

“We caught Len and Greg and stayed with them for a while before we managed to open up a 30-second lead going into Cradock Weir,” explained Slovak. “Unfortunately we had some bad luck there though and swam.

“The swim also broke our boat a little, so when we emptied and got going again we filled up with water all over again, and by the time got to Golf Course Rapid we were completely underwater and had to stop and empty again.

‘A bit disappointing’

“It’s obviously a bit disappointing, but that’s Cradock Weir, that’s the Hansa Fish and that’s paddling!” said an upbeat Bong. “We’re still very happy with third place and maybe if we can practice a bit more we can be back again in two years’ time and try to challenge Hank and Grant.”

Jenkins, a six-time K1 Fish champion and local lad Louw ultimately claimed the silver medal after an improved day compared to Friday’s opening stage.

“Yesterday wasn’t the best for us, but we managed to hold it together and Greg pulled us through,” Jenkins said afterwards. “It was much better today and man, what a nice race!”

Having slipped back to fourth, Biggs and Glass then suffered the same misfortune as their international counterparts at Cradock Weir, which allowed Brandon van der Walt and Stu MacLaren to go past them and round out the top five finishers.

Ladies’ race

In the ladies’ race, Adie and Adamova showed a clean pair of blades to their chasers, Robyn Kime and Bridgitte Hartley, as they cruised to a commanding victory. It was Adie’s second K2 victory in a row after she won the 2011 title with Hilary Pitchford.

The win was also an ideal 24th birthday present for the Natal Canoe Club star. “I couldn’t have asked for a better present,” she beamed afterwards. “We managed to hang onto a good bunch of guys early on and that really helped us.

“This really was a special win because coming into the race I thought it was one of the toughest fields I have ever had to compete against, and Anna and I were a new combination.

‘I knew we would go well’

“Once we paddled together and saw just how well we sat together and combined I knew we would go well though,” she added.

Adamova, who recently claimed a K2 bronze and K1 silver medal at the Marathon World Championships in Copenhagen, added a gold medal to her recent successes.

“The past two weeks have been amazing, I would probably rank both Worlds and Fish on the same level. They have been fantastic,” an ecstatic Adamova said. “Abby drove so well and she is also my Dusi partner, so I’m very happy to have started our partnership so well.”

Kime and Hartley won silver with Jenna Ward and Kerry Segal moving up one spot from their fourth place overnight to claim the bronze medal.

Junior categories

The Juniors Boys’ race saw Louis Hattingh and Bryan le Roux hold off the Wilson twins, Travis and Tyler, while Jordan and Cana Peek claimed the junior girls’ title. Brandon Macleod and his Michaelhouse teammate Alan Houston came from behind the claim the U16 title.

After a fascinating mixed doubles contest, Cape Town’s Tom Schilperoort and Samantha Murray claimed the win ahead of the Adie siblings, Alex and Andrew.

Having stormed through the field on day one it was the Burden trio – Nic, Paul and Colin – who once again reigned supreme in the K3 contest as they overcame the challenge of Jacques, Jen and Cobie Theron.

SAinfo reporter