Hank McGregor bagged a seventh world title when he mastered a powerful field and tough weather conditions to win the Men’s K1 crown at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships, with compatriot Andy Birkett grabbing his first senior medal to complete a historic South African one:two.
Racing in rainy, windy conditions that left the vast expanse of the Brandenburg an den Havel lake choppy and difficult to manage, McGregor raced a tactically superb race to stay in command of a threatening nine boat front bunch, with Spaniard Jose Ramalho and Hungary’s Adrian Boros always well positioned.
It was McGregor’s sixth K1 title, defending the K1 crown the Euro Steel athlete won in Gyor last year, to go with the K2 crown that he won with Jasper Mocké in Oklahoma in 2014.
“Racing against some of the best paddlers, if not the best paddlers, and I managed to pull it off when it really counted,” said McGregor.
“I thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was a totally different type of racing, with sometimes fifteen guys on the front bunch. But that’s the World Championships, against the best of the best.
“To have my countryman working together with me was great. I am really happy,” he said after the race.
The silver medal is a massive result for Birkett, who won the Under 23 K1 world title in Copenhagen.
“I am super stoked to have been in such a tough race,” he said. “I looked at the bunch around at before the last portage with about seven or eight boats and thought that if I can somehow get a medal I would be so stoked.
“To come second I feel like I have just won the race.
“After the huge disappointment of last year where things didn’t seem to work out the way I wanted it to, I went back and worked harder and I am super stoked that things went my way today,” said Birkett.
Earlier in the 2014 Junior K2 world champ Jean van der Westhuyzen had to settle for fifth place in the Boys K1 race, in a race that was totally dominated by the Hungarian duo. Capetonian Mark Keeling finished eighth, just less than two minutes further back.
A disappointed Van der Westhuysen said that he had battled in the windy and choppy water, shipping water into his K1.
“Look the conditions were the same for everyone, that’s just the way it goes,” said Van der Westhuysen after the race. “It was a good hard race.”
“I was trying to pump as much water out of my boat as I could, but that’s the way I have trained and I was used to that.”
Van der Westhuysen put in a brave charge to try and get back onto the front bunch in the closing stages of the race.
“We tried really hard to get back onto the front, but they guys were pushing too hard for us and we weren’t strong enough,” the Michaelhouse scholar said.
The junior girls crew of Sabrina Lawrie and Christie McKenzie also found themselves rubbed off the hot-paced front bunch also dictated by Hungarian paddlers.
“At the start we were closest to the grandstand, which wasn’t the most desirable line to get down to the bottom turn buoy.
“We settled into our race and started to work our way back as best we could,” said Lawrie.
“We made a really good team today and really enjoyed our first experience at World Champs level,” she added.
The competition concludes on Sunday with the K2 races for senior men and women, and the junior boys.
For more information visit www.canoesa.org.za
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – ICF CANOE MARATHON WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS Brandenburg, Germany
Junior Boys K1
1.Ádám Varga (HUN) 1:43:15.8
2.Csaba Erdössy (HUN) 1:43:20.6
3.Augustin Rodriguez (ARG) 1:44:06.8
Junior Girls K2
1.Zsófia Korsos/Viktória Fruzsina Nagy (HUN) 1:29:59.30
2Lilla Banki/Csenge Virág Rekop (HUN) 1:30:34.8
3.Eliska Betlachova/Ludmila Koterova (CZE) 1:32:26.5
Senior Women K1
1.Renata Csay (HUN) 2:06:56.7
2.Vanda Kiszli (HUN) 2:07:00.3
3.Christina Beke (SRB) 2:08:17.8
Senior Men K1
1.Hank McGregor (RSA) 2:20:11.6
2.Andy Birkett (RSA)2:20:12.7
3.Jose Ramalho (POR) 2:20:13.3