Paarl - Eleven-time champion Hank McGregor has confirmed that he will not be taking part in the Berg River Canoe Marathon from July 12-15, leaving the door ajar for a new name to be engraved onto the victor’s trophy.
The 39-year-old defending champ is regularly conflicted about which international events to contest at this congested time in the global paddling calendar, and has opted out of doing the Berg this year to compete in a number of international surfski races.
"It is such a hard decision, but I have decided to focus on Canadian surfski champs and the Gorge Downwind champs on the Columbia river in the United States, which are basically at the same time as the Berg," said the Durbanite.
"Obviously the World Marathon Champs in Pietermaritzburg in September influenced my decision as well. I feel that I have a good base after my Molokai campaign, and now I want to focus on my speed by doing some shorter races.
"You cannot come into a Berg undercooked, it will come back and bite you. You have to do the hard yards in training if you are going to be successful and enjoy the Berg."
The man who has dominated the Berg since his first win in 2005 vowed that he would be back to challenge for a 12th title in the near future.
"I remember when I didn’t do the Berg in 2013 and 2014, I missed it like crazy. It is very much part of my make-up so I will definitely be back for another Berg," he said.
"It will be up to one of the other local paddlers to step up now, especially with Adrián Boros having entered.
"I reckon that missing out on the Berg this year will only make me hungrier to get back to it again in a year or twos time."
The Berg River Canoe marathon starts in Paarl on July 12 and ends at Velddrif on July 15.
More information can be found at www.berg.org.za