In less than two weeks’ time, five-time world champion paddler, Hank McGregor (Jeep Team SA), will find out whether he has been named ‘Sportsman of the Year’ by the inaugural World Paddle Awards.
McGregor is the only South African shortlisted for the award, joining the likes of Germany’s Sebastian Brendel (current world and Olympic champion in sprint canoeing) and the United States’ Fabien Lefèvre (double Olympian and world champion in canoe slalom) in the final three.
Says McGregor: “I feel truly honoured to be nominated for this award. To be in the final three is just a bonus due to the fact that the nominee list contained the likes of Olympic Champions and World Champions across all disciplines of paddling be it sprint canoeing, slalom, dragon boat racing, river racing, surfski racing, etc.”
The World Paddle Awards is the first event of its kind to focus only on paddlesports – a diverse sport often overlooked by the mainstream South African and global media. The awards recognise the many different paddlesport disciplines across the globe and validate the most remarkable men and women who compete in these disciplines.
Winners, publicly announced on Saturday, 9 May, at a ceremony inside the palace-like Golden Hall in Augsburg, Germany, will receive a ‘Golden Paddle’, affectionately known as a paddlesports’ ‘Oscar’.
Says McGregor: “I believe the World Paddle Awards will create awareness for the sport in general due to the fact that it’s uniting all the paddling disciplines into one event. This will also help highlight paddling as a diverse sport with a lot to offer, which will hopefully attract sponsors and media attention.”
McGregor has without doubt earned his place amongst the world’s greatest paddlers. His 2014 achievements (on which the awards nomination is based) include winning both K1 and K2 gold medals at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships – the first South African ever to do so – and adding to his prior collection of three World Championship golds in K1 (2003, 2011, 2013). Last year, McGregor also won the K2 Non-Stop Dusi and the K1 Hansa Fish River Marathon.
Currently he is training for his title defence of two very different paddlesport events on two different continents that fall within days of each other – the Molokai Surfski World Championships in Hawaii on 30 May 2015 and the 2015 SA Canoe Marathon Championships in Pietermaritzburg on 6 June 2015.
Comments McGregor on the transition from ocean to river racing in such a short space of time, “I do find this challenging especially due to the travelling aspect and because the two races are totally different (ie: different craft, different distance, different competitors, etc). Maybe this is why I keep doing it as it’s always challenging and interesting due to the diversity within paddling.”