Classy field for Fish Canoe Marathon

26 September 2013

After bagging his third Marathon World Championship title in Copenhagen over the weekend, South Africa’s Hank McGregor will join a horde of world-class local and international paddlers in Cradock on Friday for the opening stage of the two-day 2013 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon.

McGregor again showed why he is regarded by many as the best all-round paddler on the globe when he overcame a strong senior men’s K1 field to claim gold for the third time in his career in Copenhagen on Saturday, before heading straight to the airport to return home to focus on his Hansa Fish campaign.

McGregor’s Hansa Fish partner, Grant van der Walt, finished seventh at the World Championships in the K1 race, a result that will give the pair an enormous confidence boost ahead of this year’s Hansa Fish, which they are aiming to win together for a fourth consecutive time.

Under-23 world champion

Triple Dusi Canoe Marathon winner Andy Birkett also enjoyed a golden Danish trip as he narrowly edged out van der Walt’s younger brother, Brandon, to claim the under-23 world title, with Van der Walt making it a South African one-two.

Birkett and his 2013 Hansa Fish partner Cam Schoeman then put in another top performance in the men’s K2 event, powering to fifth place between their fellow South African crew of former marathon world champ Shaun Rubenstein and 2013 surfski world champ Sean Rice, who finished fourth, and the Czech Republic’s Jakub Adam and Michael Odvarko, who claimed sixth position.

Birkett and Schoeman make up one of a trio of pairings labelled this year’s Hansa Fish “big three”, while Van der Walt will pair up with SA sprinter Stuart MacLaren.

Mixed doubles

Rice will be teaming up with his girlfriend, Emily McGrath, in what promises to be a hotly contested mixed doubles category.

Having tackled the Hansa Fish in K1s last year, Adam and Odvarko had their hopes of a 2013 K2 entry dashed recently when Odvarko was forced to withdraw from the trip due to personal reasons.

Adam will, however, still be in action with Czech sprint sensation Lukas Trefil.

Adam’s sister, Anna Adamova, was yet another 2013 Hansa Fish attendee who enjoyed great success in Copenhagen where she claimed the silver medal in the women’s K1 event before racing to third place in the K2 event with partner Lenka Hrochova.

Top women’s teams

Adamova will team up with top SA river marathoner Abby Adie in Cradock as the pair takes on the likes of fellow top female river paddler Robyn Kime and her partner, London Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley.

Hartley had an unfortunate experience in Denmark with a rudder mechanical just 500 metres from the starting line ended her and doubles partner Michele Eray’s K2 medal challenge.

Under-18 girls’ sensation Kirsten Flanagan was another of Team South Africa’s standout performers as she bravely battled her way to a memorable silver medal to add to the gold she claimed at the Surfski Worlds in Portugal earlier this year.

K1 entry

Despite this year’s Hansa Fish being a K2 championship year, she has opted to take part individually, even though her recent World Championships effort would have done her chances of securing herself a top partner no harm.

Others South African World Championships’ representatives who will be in action in Cradock include Michelle Burn, Jenna Ward, Kerry Segal and Kenny Rice, while the strong performances by South African masters’ competitors in Copenhagen bodes well for competitive clashes throughout the age groups at this year’s Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon.

SAinfo reporter