Grant van der Walt becomes first junior paddler to clinch Fish River Marathon

2008-10-06 00:00

Cradock — Grant van der Walt paddled his way into the history books at the weekend by becoming the first junior canoeist to win the Hansa Powerade Fish River Canoe Marathon title, when he and Hank McGregor completed and emphatic and tactical victory.

The pair started the 36-km final stage from Knutsford to Cradock with the talented Cradock siblings Ryan and Greg Louw right alongside them. These two crews jockeyed for ascendancy during the first half on the final stage until a key moment in the approach to Marlow Chute.

Van der Walt and McGregor sprinted ahead to get to the weir first and cleverly squeezed out the Eastern Cape brothers as they slid down the steps of the weir.

“I knew it was now or never,” said McGregor. “We sprinted away and the Louw brothers didn’t have an answer.”

By the time the duo reached the four-metre-high Cradock weir on the outskirts of the town, the Louw brothers were out of sight. Van der Walt whooped with delight after they successfully negotiated the weir, knowing their victory was secure and with it his slice of canoeing history.

“This is the biggest thing to happen to me in canoeing in South Africa,” said Van der Walt, who won the Junior world Marathon Championships in 2007 and followed that with a silver medal at the Junior Worlds in the Czech Republic two weeks ago. “I did my first ‘Fish’ as an 11-year-old and I have always dreamed about winning this race,” he added.

The Louw brothers wrapped up second place two minutes further back with the final place on the podium going to Doug Bird and Nick Burden.

The women’s K2 title fell for the second time in succession to the classy Czech Republic pairing of Michala Mruzkova and Katerina Vacikova. They completed a flawless final stage to post a comfortable two- minute victory, thus retaining the title they won in 2006. The silver medal was won by Abbey Miedema and Michele Eray, coming from behind to overtake Alexa Cole and Bridgette Hartley in the final fifteen minute dice from Cradock weir to the finish.

“We were a bit afraid at Cradock weir, but we shot it fine and had no other troubles” said Mruzkova, recalling how their swim at the same weir nearly cost them their title in 2006.

The KZN duo of Ben Biggs and Stuart Waterworth won the junior boys’ title with an excellent ninth place overall.

The Amanzimtoti pairing of Michelle Eder and Oliver Burn took the mixed doubles title by a comfortable seven minute margin from Mark and Angelique Mulder.

The race prize-giving was preceded by a minute’s silence in memory of East London paddler John Breetzke who died after being evacuated from the first stage of the race experiencing chest pains.

RESULTS

Men’s K2:

1.Hank McGregor / Grant van der Walt 04:53:09

2.Greg Louw / Ryan Louw 04:55:00

3.Douglas Bird / Nicholas Burden 04:58:40

4.Michael Arthur / Nick Stubbs 05:04:49

5.Ernst van Riet / Heinrich Schloms 05:05:28

6.Alex Roberts / Gavin Payne 05:06:06

7.Mike Harris / Brandon Collyer 05:09:08

8.Andrew Birkett / Pierre-Andre Rabie 05:09:10

9.Ben Biggs / Stuart Waterworth 05:10:31

10.Shaun Griffin / Stuart Clifton 05:13:23

Women K2:

1.Michala Mruzkova / Katerina Vacikova 05:22:21

2.Abbey Miedema / Michelle Eray 05:24:27

3.Alexa Cole / Brigitte Hartley 05:24:35

4.Kelly Howe / Tiffany Kruger 05:41:04

5. Robyn Kime / Abie Adie 05:41:10

6.Suzette Maree / Hanre Maree 05:43:52

Mixed doubles:

1.Michelle Eder / Oliver Burn 05:33:13

2.Mark Mulder / Angelique Mulder 05:40:44

3.Andrew Skowno / Janet Vorster 05:43:05

4.Kate March / Nicholas March 05:57:01

5.Matthew Ballenden / sarah Saunders 05:57:53

Junior boys:

1.Ben Biggs / Stuart Waterworth 05:10:07

Junior girls:

1.Suzette Maree / Hanre Maree 05:43:52.

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