SA shines at Canoe Marathon Worlds

23 September 2013

South African paddlers excelled at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Copenhagen on the weekend, with Hank McGregor and Andy Birkett both claiming titles.

They were not alone in standing out, however, with two silver medals also being won, while in the Masters World Championships, which preceded the elite competition, South Africa came away with five gold medals, five silvers and one bronze.

Third world title

Durban powerhouse Hank McGregor captured the prestigious open K1 title on the final day of competition to become world champion for the third time.

He made his break on the final portage, opening up a small gap on Spain’s Ivan Alonso and Frenchman Cyrille Carre, to win by five seconds over Alonso in 2:10:34.

After being disqualified at the World Championships in Rome in 2012, the victory was surely extra sweet for McGregor.

His training partner and two-time under-23 world champion Grant van der Walt was seventh in his first shot at the senior title.

South African one-two

Andy Birkett, the three-time winner of the world’s largest canoe race, Dusi Canoe Marathon, meanwhile showed that his talents are not suited to the uniquely challenging Dusi only. He and Brandon van der Walt battled it out for the honours in the under-23 K1 category, with Birkett eventually edging out his South African compatriot for the title by a single second.

“I’m very happy to show people that I’m not just a Dusi athlete,” he told SAinfo from Copenhagen on the weekend.

“I can also hold my own in a pure paddling race. And I am actually very chuffed to be involved with marathon paddling and to be having so much fun with it. It took me a while to get into it and I’m glad I got into it, and I’m enjoying it.”

Silver medal

Kirsten Flanagan, the under-18 world surfski champion, added a silver for South Africa in the K1 women’s junior race after she and Tamara Takacs had broken away from the rest of the field to set up a two-boat battle for the win.

The powerful Hungarian had too much in the tank for Flanagan, though, and went on to win by 31 seconds.

The only real disappointment for South Africa came in the women’s K2 race when the powerful team of Bridgitte Hartley and Michele Eray was forced out of the event within 500 metres of the start by a technical problem.

In the battle for the men’s K2 crown, Shaun Rubenstein and Shaun Rice just missed out on a medal, finishing in fourth, while Andy Birkett, after a day’s rest, and his partner Cam Schoeman came home in fifth place.

Double winners

In the Masters World Championships, Natal Canoe Club’s Marion Young and Len Jenkins senior both came away with two gold medals.

Young, competing in her first World Championships, won K1 gold in the 35 to 39 year age group and then teamed up with Angela Scruby to capture the K2 title. Jenkins, who had coached Young, won the men’s 70 to 74 age group K1 title and was second in the K2s.

Lee McGregor teamed with Alan Hold for a K2 gold medal in the 60 to 64 age category. Hold had won a silver medal in K1 competition, while McGregor claimed fourth place against competition 10 years his junior while contesting the K1 race in the 50 to 54 age group.

Silver medallists

Silver medal winners included Nicholas Oldert (K1, 55 to 59), Radoslaw Olsewski (C1, 50 to 54), Lis Hart and Sandra Eardley, and Hilder Lapere (with ex-South African Margie Bohm, K2, 50 to 54).

Brandon Collyer and Rob Hart added a bronze medal in the 45 to 49 age group for the K2 race.