26 September 2006
Shaun Rubenstein is the new canoeing marathon world champion. The 22-year-old from Johannesburg won the gold medal in a thrilling men’s K1 World Championship race on the Dordogne River in Tremolat, France on Saturday, edging out six-time world champ Manuel Busto Fernandes in the end sprint.
A delighted Rubenstein, who announced his arrival on the marathon world stage by winning a bronze medal in the 2004 World Marathon champs, was locked in a ferocious tussle with two Spaniards, Busto and Emilio Merchan Alonso, in the final kilometre.
First Busto challenged for the lead, several hundred metres from the line, but could not subdue Rubenstein and fell back. Then Alonso challenged and failed, allowing Rubenstein to cruise across the line with more than a boat length to spare.
Superior sprint speed
It was Rubenstein’s superior sprint speed in the dying stages that won him the most prized medal in world marathon canoeing, despite the odds being stacked against him.
The exhilarated youngster threw his arms into the air in celebration before heading to shore to collect a South African flag, then paddled back to the packed grandstand flying his flag from his paddle.
His brother Cedric and five relatives, who had driven from Scotland to France to watch him race, shared in the moment with him afterwards
‘The pain is not as sore’
“The pain is not as sore as it usually is at this stage,” Rubenstein said afterwards. “It really hasn’t sunk in properly. Perhaps after the awards ceremony it will hit me.
“It was a classic race. A clean, very hard race,” Rubenstein said. “It was fantastic to have Busto and Merchan Alonso paddle up to me afterwards and congratulate me so warmly, so sincerely. We all had our chances and it just seemed to work out perfectly for me on the day.”
Rubenstein was part of a four-boat bunch that broke away at the end of the first lap and jockeyed for position throughout the needle race.
“My only mistake was getting stuck in the back of the diamond coming into the last portage,” Rubenstein said. “That meant that I had to wait for the others to get out, and had to run like crazy to catch up.
‘I cranked it up’
“They tried to drop me by putting in a very strong interval, but I managed to catch them. Then they gave me the pull about 500 metres from the finish. I actually slowed it right down, and then when I hit the 500-metre mark, which I know so well from sprinting, I cranked it up.
“They both challenged me, and I just kept concentrating on my technique and pacing, and they couldn’t get past me. I tried so hard not to get distracted by them, even though there was so much cheering and screaming from the crowd. I just stayed focused on my stroke until I got to the line.”
Rubenstein regards himself primarily as a sprinter, committed to qualifying a K1 for South Africa at the Beijing Olympics. He enjoyed a stellar sprint season in Europe earlier in the year, which reflected that he is on track to securing his status as an Olympian.
Hank McGregor, the 2003 world champion, finished in the third bunch, securing ninth place.
In the women’s race, a breakaway led by British star Anna Hemmings left South African ace Alexa Lombard struggling, and she finished ninth, six minutes off the hot-paced breakaway bunch, with plucky Bridgette Hartley in eleventh, less than a minute further back.
Grant van der Walt came back spectacularly in the boys’ K1 race, and after the second portage started a charge that took him right back onto the front bunch, where he stayed until the final sprint to the finish.
Van der Walt, making his world champs debut, finished sixth, on the back of the leading bunch, and just 15 seconds off the two French boys who took the gold and silver medals.
In the girls’ race, Capetonian Bianca Beavitt raced to tenth place, five minutes off the leaders.
Gauteng schoolboy Michael Ngwenya made history as the first South African to complete a World Marathon Championships in a C1 canoe, when he raced to eighteenth in the boys’ C1 race.
Radolslav Olszewski bagged a twelfth in the senior C1 race later in the afternoon.
On Sunday, things got even better for Rubenstein when he added a World Championship silver medal to his haul with partner Shaun Biggs in the K2 race.
The duo went toe-to-toe with the defending world champions, Manuel Busto Fernandes and his Spanish partner Oier Aizpurua Aranzadi, over the 35-kilometre course, and were in contention right to the end sprint.
As the race came down the final kilometre there were four boats locked together jostling for the lead: the Spanish and South African crews, together with a second Spanish boat of Jorge Alonso Gonzales and Santiago Guerrero Aroyo, and the experienced Hungarian crew of Attila Jambor and Tamas Homoki.
The Spanish world champions managed to edge over the line to retain the world title, but the race for silver was desperately close, and needed to be verified from the official video before it was given to the South Africans.
“It was an incredibly tough race,” an exhausted Rubenstein said afterwards. “For most of the race there were seven boats on the front bunch, which made it very hot at the front.
“Shaun and I ran the portages really well, and managed to be the first boat back onto the water, so we managed to put the pressure on there,” he added.
“In the end I was really battling. We managed to squeeze the Norwegian boat onto the back of the bunch, and then we tried to challenge for the gold, and eventually did well to hold on for the silver. I am completely finished now.”
The silver medal for Biggs and Rubenstein capped a thoroughly successful campaign by the South African men, following Rubenstein’s emphatic K1 victory on Saturday. Both paddlers are key members of the South African sprint squad training to qualify places at the Beijing Olympics.
In the women’s K2 race, South African hopefuls Alexa Lombard and Jenna Worlock finished ninth after failing to stay with a leading bunch driven by two fiercely charged Hungarian crews.
Lombard won silver in the women’s K2 race at last year’s world championships with Donia Kamstra.
Earlier in the day, the South African junior crews were well in contention in their races, but neither the boys nor girls were able to snatch a podium finish. Adrian Gebers and Stephen Bird finished on the second bunch in the Junior Boys’ K2 race, with compatriots Brent Chiazzari and Cam Schoeman right behind them in ninth.
In the Junior Girls’ race, Kelly Howe and Vicky Chiazzari had to settle for eighth after being dropped by a fast breakaway headed by the British girls that dominated the junior girls’ championship races.
Earlier in the eek, the SA Masters team was able to add a total of 12 medals to the team haul for the championships.
- 1. Shaun Rubenstein RSA 2:33.35
- 2. Manuel Busto Fernandes 2:33.36
- 3. Emilio Merchan Alonso ESP 2:33.36
- 9. Hank McGregor RSA 2:37.13
- 1. Anna Hemmings GBR 2:11.11
- 2. Renata Csay HUN 2:11.17
- 3. Beatriz Gomes POR 2:11.30
- 9. Alexa Lombard RSA 2:17.21
- 11. Bridgette Hartley 2:17.22
- 1. Edvin Csabai HUN 2:13.33
- 2. Jose Alfredo Bea Garcia 2:13.42
- 3. Bertrand Hemonic FRA 2:15
- 12. Radolslav Olszewski RSA 2:34.38
- 1. Ettienne Hubert FRA 1:31.51
- 2. Quentin Urban FRA 1:31.54
- 3. Laurens Pannecoucke BEL 1:31.59
- 6. Grant van der Walt RSA 1:32.06
- 1.Louisa Sawers GBR 1:39.40
- 2.Lani Belcher AUS 1:39.44
- 3.Erika Medveow HUN 1:41.58
- 10.Bianca Beavitt RSA 1:44.40
- 1. Stephane Hascoet FRA 1:43.12
- 2. Matej Rusnak SVK 1:43.13
- 3. Michael Franz GER 1:43.37
- 15. Michael Ngwenya RSA 2:01.57
- 1. Fernandes/Aranzadi ESP 2:23.23
- 2. Rubenstein/Biggs RSA 2:23.24
- 3. Jambor/Homoki HUN 2:23.24
- 12. Van Rooyen/Mbanjwa 2:27.54
- 1. Lolk/Barfod DEN 2:02.32
- 2. Csay/Follath HUN 2:02.32
- 3. Szabo/Faldum HUN 2:02.48
- 9. Lombard/Worlock RSA 2:12.37
- 13. Elliott/Wolhuter RSA 2:23.54
- 1. Hubert/Urban FRA 1:27.06
- 2. Hastings/Daniels GBR 1:27.08
- 3. Poulson/Lovenrose DEN 1:27.20
- 8. Gebers/Bird RSA 1:28.25
- 9. Chiazzari/Schoeman RSA 1:28.56
- 1. Sawers/Walker GBR 1:34.33
- 2. Vichova/Krauzova CZE 1:34.34
- 3. Lakner/Buchwuller HUN 1:34.36
- 8. Howe/Chiazzari RSA 1:40.07Source: