Jenna Ward launched a late charge to surge to a memorable K1 Under-23 Women’s bronze medal on the opening day of the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Győr, Hungary on Friday to replicate her third place feat at the same event in Oklahoma, USA last year.
With Hungarian star Vanda Kiszli having made a decisive move as early as the start of the second lap that ultimately handed the powerful local her second consecutive U23 Women’s world title, Ward was left to deal with a titanic tussle for the remaining two medal positions.
A strong final portage handed Italy’s Susanna Cicali the silver medal however, after biding her time well throughout, Mount Edgecombe resident Ward powered her way through the short final lap to come from behind and edge out Noémi Miskó (Hungary) for bronze.
“There were so many times when I just wanted to stop,” laughed a relieved Ward afterwards. “That was one of the hardest races I’ve ever had to race but it’s not over until the end and I knew I had to keep fighting right until the finish!”
“I was absolutely exhausted the whole way and every time I got out for the portages I thought that was when I was going to fall off the group but when I got back in the other side I managed to get a second wind.
“Every time I dropped off I had to work really hard to catch back up but I trained to come from behind so I knew I was well prepared and it paid off right at the end,” added the MacSquad Elite member.
Ward’s fellow U23 Women’s paddler Kerry Segal clinched a hard-fought fourteenth place finish while it was a disappointing day on the water for K1 Under-23 Men’s title hopeful Brandon van der Walt.
The Kayak Racing/Macsteel Maestros flyer entered the event eager to make amends for his ninth place effort in Oklahoma last year and go one better than his silver medal effort in Copenhagen, Denmark in 2013.
Despite having set the Western Cape paddling scene alight in recent months in preparation for the clash, a poor draw saw Van der Walt start on the far left of the line, erasing all hope of a good start and leaving him too much work to do to catch the leaders, eventually crossing the finish line in seventh position.
Earlier in the day young Kyeta Purchase got her first taste of international paddling action when she charged to an impressive fourth place in the K1 Junior Girls event despite being just 16 years-old.
“I’ve only been paddling for a year or so and this is the first time in competing in a paddling event in Europe so while I would have liked to have better, I still had a good race,” said Purchase.
“I’d hoped to catch the leaders but I guess next time I’ve just got to work harder so that I can stay on the front bunch. I’ve still got next year so this was good experience for me.
“The river was very shallow and you kept hitting you paddle on the bottom every now and again but training on the Mngeni River back at home in Durban is fairly similar to this so I was quite used to the current and the shallow water,” the MacSquad Elite member added.
Saturday sees the major focus shift to the senior age groups when the coveted men’s and women’s World Championship titles are up for grabs.
Five time World Champ Hank McGregor (Jeep Team/Kayak Centre) will get the first of his two opportunities of the weekend to retain the K1 and K2 titles he clinched in Oklahoma last year. McGregor will however receive stiff opposition from fellow South African Andy Birkett (Euro Steel), a former U23 Men’s K1 World Champ himself.
2012 Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley (Nelo) will make a rare switch from sprints to marathon paddling when she and Nicole Russell take on the tough senior women’s field while the day also sees Mark Keeling and Luke Criticos tackle the K1 Junior Boys race.
Nicole Smith and Julia van der Westhuysen as well as Cana Peek and Donna Hutton are also set to give it their all in the K2 Junior Girls’ assignment on Saturday.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS 2015 ICF CANOE MARATHON WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS
K1 Junior Women 1.Dóra Sólyom (HUN) 1:25.49 2. Réka Pető (HUN) 1:25.50 3. Cathrine Rask (DEN) 1:27.12 4.Kyeta Purchase (RSA) 1:28.02 17.Donna Hutton (RSA) 1:36.56
K1 Under-23 Women 1.Vanda Kiszli (HUN) 1:39.07 2.Susanna Cicali (ITA) 1:39.46 3. Jenna Ward (RSA) 1:39.56 14.Kerry Segal (RSA) 1:52.52
K1 Under-23 Men 1.Alejandro Sanchez Cobos (ESP) 1:46:32 2.Krisztián Máthé (HUN) 1:46.57 3.László Solti (HUN) 1:47.40 6.Brandon van der Walt (RSA) 1:50.47 22.Bryan Leroux (RSA) 1:57.38