McGregor is in it to win it

2013-02-12 00:00

HANK McGregor is a competitor, a man who takes on a challenge with one thing in mind — to win. It has made him one of the paddling world’s most respected opponents and, whether on a river or surfskiing, if McGregor’s in the field, something special needs to be done to beat him.

The same applies to this week’s Unlimited Dusi canoe marathon starting on Thursday morning at Camp’s Drift in Pietermaritzburg. This is McGregor’s 10th paddle in the event and he has never finished out of the top six, in singles or doubles. He won the singles in 2005 and the doubles the following year, partnered by multiple winner Martin Dreyer.

As he waits for the starting cannon on Thursday, his spirit of determination will be fuelled by what went down at Midmar Dam this past weekend, when he was denied victory in the inaugural Dusi Dash within metres of the finish.

It’s history as to what happened, McGregor and Len Jenkins colliding, resulting in both boats capsizing and Cam Schoeman breezing through to take the R8 000 spoils. It’s left McGregor determined to let his Dusi performance do the talking.

A member of the Team Best 4 Kayak Centre, McGregor has been asked not to comment on the incident, but it has certainly resulted in him getting a renewed adrenaline rush for the Dusi.

Said McGregor: “The incident at the weekend has certainly made me more determined to hit Dusi hard and go all out for the win. It’s given me motivation, but it’s three days where anything can go wrong. One incorrect line, one hesitation and the race is done. I am focusing on what happens on the water and giving it my best shot. At the end of it all, the best man will win.”

Looking ahead, McGregor was pleased with the water level of the rivers and, with the release from Henley Dam, was anticipating a “humdinger of a race”.

“With great water levels, the race doesn’t favour the strong runners as obviously we can spend more time in the boats on the river. Then it’s the paddlers with the skill and knowledge of the route who prevail,” he said.

An innovation this year sees the leading paddlers after day two starting last on the final day, something McGregor sees as a vital boost for the race.

“It’s a fantastic idea for the event and spectators. With rain forecast on Saturday, it will make the last stage interesting. It will make matters somewhat tougher, which for me is better. As front paddlers, we won’t have the best of everything and will have to negotiate back markers, slippery portages and many little things we have never noticed before.

“This should really spice up the final dash for the line and by finishing later, it encourages more spectators at the finish. In the past, only a handful have been at the end to welcome home the winner and this new idea should have a bigger, more festive crowd, adding to the atmosphere. If there is a close finish, a large crowd can spur the paddlers on,” he said.

McGregor’s gameplan is to do the talking on the water and, with his all-out attitude of attack, he could be a serious threat to race favourite Andy Birckett come the finish at Durban’s Blue Lagoon on Saturday.

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