Eleven canoeists make KZN proud

2014-06-19 00:00

Natal canoe club dominate SA marathon in junior and women’s events

NATAL Canoe Club (NCC), which is set to host the 2017 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships, saw 11 paddlers selected to the national team after the recent South African Canoe Marathon Championships in which the club dominated competition in the junior and women’s ranks.

Bridgitte Hartley won the women’s K1 title by over four minutes, Jenna Ward claimed the U23 title by almost five minutes, and Abby Adie and Laura O’Donoghue (nee Thompson) edged Jenna Ward and Hayley Arthur for the K2 crown.

Adie, the South African K1 river champion, said her participation in the South African Championships and subsequent selection for the national team had come about almost by chance.

“I was having a bit of a break after the Dusi. I planned to do the Green Kalahari [Canoe Marathon]. That didn’t happen, so I took a break, and then Laura O’Donoghue approached me about doing marathons, so that is what sparked the interest,” she explained.

“I have been injured since the Dusi, so I haven’t been able to run, so I thought I might as well keep paddling then.”

Now Adie’s long-term plan is to compete for South Africa in the 2017 World Championships at Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg. Competing in this year’s World Championships will be the first step towards realising that dream.

In the past year, NCC have made massive strides in catering to the club’s and the district’s leading paddlers, and it has been a fulfilling experience for Adie.

“Laura and I are both on the high performance programme that the club’s funding and making available to us, so that’s also one of the main reasons behind going to the World Championships,” she shared.

“Having the support of the club behind us, with Craig Mustard as the coach who is helping us with training and all the gym work, and other people who specialise in other areas, helps.

“Without the club, I think we would be quite lost. I can’t believe what they have done. Going forward, it is only going to get better.”

NCC juniors won every title on offer. Julia Trodd did the double in the under-18 competition, claiming victory in both K1 and K2 (with Donna Hutton). Louis Hattingh clinched gold in the Junior K1 and had an unfortunate equipment incident in the K2 that dashed his hopes of claiming the double. However, NCC’s Bryan le Roux, who was second in the singles race, teamed up with Stuart Bristowe for the doubles win.

There was also great success for NCC in Masters’ competition, a division in which the club produced world champions in Marion Young and Len Jenkins senior in Copenhagen last year.

Club GM Brett Austen Smith, who heads up the Canoeing South Africa Marathon Committee, expanded on the reasons for NCC’s superb showing.

“NCC members have shown throughout the season that they have great pedigree in long distance races,” he said. “They won almost every major event throughout the KZN season. This prompted the club to support the elite paddlers in participating in the marathon events, and help paddlers go to World Champs. The long-term goal is obviously creating a strong team for 2017, when we will have World Champs right here at NCC.

“The club has created a fantastic environment for promoting high performance from the Pietermaritzburg-based paddlers, with new gym equipment being installed and a structured high performance programme being implemented,” he added.

“We are very grateful to Lotto for providing funding to upgrade the gym, and the Department Sport and Recreation KZN has been very proactive in supporting KZN paddlers. Between them, we now have world class facilities and structures in place, and I believe the results are showing. Eleven club members in the South African team is a great outcome.”

The quality of the competition at the South African National Championships was exceptional, a fact that was made clear when last year’s under-23 world champion Andy Birkett finished third in the men’s K1 race, thus missing out on a place in the South African team in that discipline for this year’s World Championships. Birkett will, however, be in the team to contest the K2 discipline in Oklahoma City with Greg Louw.

Victory in the K1 race went to three-time world champion Hank McGregor, who will be defending his world title in September, while his Dusi Canoe Marathon partner Jasper Mocké edged out Birkett for second place.

Austen Smith, who led NCC’s successful bid for the 2017 ICF World Championships, said he was thrilled by the huge turnout for the South African Championships: “South Africa is very highly regarded in World Canoe Marathon circles, being ranked overall in the top five in the world,” he said.

“Our marathon squad is exceptionally strong at the moment. However, we must build on this momentum in the build-up to 2017. We have a fantastic opportunity to lift our ranking to number one in the next three years.”

NCC MEMBERS SELECTED FOR THE SA WORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS TEAM

Protea Colours

Andy Birkett, Bridgitte Hartley, Abby Adie, Laura O’Donaghue, Louis Hattingh, Bryan le Roux,

Julia Trodd

Federation Colours

Marion Young, Len Jenkins Snr, Cathy Bigara-Doherty, Nigel Briggs

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