SA paddlers reign in Spain

2014-08-21 00:00

NATAL Canoe Club paddlers have spoken out after making a big impact at the Sella Descent in Spain earlier this month, with Abby Adie teaming up with Laura O’Donaghue to become the first South African women to win the prestigious race. Andy Birkett and his partner Greg Louw combined for an impressive third place in the men’s race.

Competing against many of the paddlers, they will face at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Oklahoma City in September, those results were very encouraging for the South African teams.

Adie had headed to Spain aiming to gain international experience and it proved to be an unforgettable experience.

“The atmosphere is amazing, with all the supporters, spectators and competitors, and with over a thousand people all starting at once. That was something so different, which I had never experienced before, so the start was very special. It was also quite nerve-wracking,” she said.

“We had an idea that we were in front because our start was so good. We managed to get out ahead and I didn’t see any other girls, and then at the end we weren’t 100% sure [whether we had won or not] because we got caught up every now and then in little pile-ups, so someone could easily have moved past us.”

Having had time to consider her victory, which came by a stunningly convincing margin of two minutes and 16 seconds, Adie said, “I think [winning] the Dusi would always be my top goal, because of the time and effort that goes into preparing for it. Being one of the first South African ladies to win Sella, though, makes it one of my top results. It’s special, an international race, and one of the most prestigious races in the world.”

In 2013, Birkett finished fifth in the Sella and at the World Championships with Cam Schoeman.

Birkett, who was also crowned U23 K1 world champion last year, said he believed he has become a better paddler in the last year.

“Last year was my first year of paddling for 11, 12 months of the year. That has helped to get my paddling stronger,” he said.

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