ICF tests PMB course

2016-04-06 06:00
 PHOTO: supplied Andy Birkett prepares to portage, on his way to winning the K1 title at the 2015 South African Canoe Marathon Championships, held at Natal Canoe Club on Camps Drift.

PHOTO: supplied Andy Birkett prepares to portage, on his way to winning the K1 title at the 2015 South African Canoe Marathon Championships, held at Natal Canoe Club on Camps Drift.

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NATAL Canoe Club will be hosting a test event for next year’s International Canoe Federation (ICF) Marathon World Championships at Camps Drift on Saturday.

The ICF Marathon Committee is holding its annual strategic planning session in Pietermaritzburg and has asked for the local organising committee to assist them in making some assessments.

“They have asked to see the course in action. The two main things that we are going to be showing them are our timing system, which we want to use, and the new portage,” Brett Austen Smith, the organiser of next year’s ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships, told The Witness yesterday.

A similar portage was used during the South African Canoe Marathon Championships in 2015, but whereas that was all on artificial turf, grass has since been planted, and instead of running clockwise it will now be run counter-clockwise.

The event is open to all and free. “There is no entry process. You just arrive and the race starts at nine o’clock,” Austen Smith said. “If there are enough boats, we will separate K1s and K2s.”

There will be no formal timing or results, just the demonstration of the timing system to the ICF Canoe Marathon Committee.

There has, nonetheless, been good interest in the event. FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon champion Andy Birkett will be in action, while the Dusi women’s winner Abby Solms will team up with sprint star Bridgitte Hartley, who also has South African colours in marathon racing.

“I had a nice break after Dusi. I have been training for about two or three weeks now, trying to get back into it. It’s not that easy. Last year I got back into it quite easily and this year I am taking a bit of strain,” Birkett explained to The Witness yesterday. “Either I have got very slow or all of the ‘laaities’ have become super-fast, but I am not managing to beat any of them.”

Birkett confirmed he would be defending his K1 title at the South African Canoe Marathon Championships in June. “If I make the team, I am looking at doing the World Marathon Champs, and also the World Cup in Portugal in July.”

The Solms/Hartley partnership is an intriguing one, but, Solms said in an interview with The Witness they have no plans beyond Saturday’s event as Hartley is concentrating on the Rio Olympic Games, where she will be hoping to add to the bronze medal she won at the London 2012 Games.

Solms has been active since her winning her maiden FNB Dusi title, running in The Witness Maritzburg Marathon and the Old Mutual Two Oceans Marathon, and paddling in the Umkomaas Marathon. She, however, fell ill recently, but expects to be back at full strength soon. “I am still fit,” she said, “not quite at Bridgitte’s level, but given another week I will be ready to go.”

Capetonian Stu MacLaren, another top sprinter who also excels in marathon, has stayed on after the African Sprint Canoe Championships to take part in the event, which is likely to include his K2 sprint partner Louis Hattingh. The pair won gold at the past weekend’s African Sprint Canoe Championships. Overseas interest will be provided by the Czech Republic’s Jakub Adam, a regular leading competitor at the World Championships, as well as competitors from Poland and Sweden.

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