McGregor, Ward reign supreme at Shongweni

2014-04-30 00:00

WORLD champion Hank McGregor edged out U23 world champion Andy Birkett for the KZN Marathon Championships’ K1 men’s title and Jenna Ward got the better of SA K1 river champion Abby Adie to win the women’s title at the Shongweni Dam over the weekend.

The battle between McGregor and Birkett came down to a tight end-sprint after they had kept a close eye on one another throughout, while Ward paddled a smart race to claim the women’s honours.

Durban-based Ward said she paced herself because of the hot conditions in the middle of the day, going hard into and out of the portages, but allowing her opposition to come back to her in the water.

“I didn’t really feel like going out all by myself, so I waited for the others to come back and then we could work together,” she explained. “I feel, when you’re with other people, you pull stronger, rather than just going around by yourself. It was good.

“I felt very comfortable in the race, knowing I could have gone faster if I needed to. I know how to pace myself. Seeing that I could beat Abby made me realise that I could do well at the SA Marathon Champs [in June],” she concluded.

Ward is still U23 and could contest that category and the open women’s category at the South African Championships.

Chairperson of the Canoeing South Africa marathon committee, Brett Austen Smith was delighted by the standard of racing and the huge entry. “The attendance was fantastic,” he enthused. “There were 209 boats in total over the weekend, and we had seven current world champions on display, and the general enthusiasm and excitement around marathon racing was very visible. It was very evident.”

Apart from the racing in the senior categories, Austen Smith said he was also excited by the number of entries in the juniors and guppies classes, which he termed “very, very encouraging”. “It all relates to the 2017 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Pietermaritzburg,” he added. “The 2017 Champs are definitely creating a vibe around marathon racing that we need to build on.”

Austen Smith is also the general manager of the Natal Canoe Club, which will be hosting the World Championships at Camps Drift.

The results on the weekend will determine the KZN Team that will be selected to go to SA Marathon Championships in Gauteng on June 7 and 8. The team is sure to contain all of seven of the current world champions, who will form the core of a very experienced and competitive squad. The Junior and U23 categories also look likely to be very competitive at the national event, which will be the selection event for the World Championships in September in the U.S.

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