Durbanite Hank McGregor blitzed to a fourth world K1 title on a day that saw Team SA grab two gold medals at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships on the Oklahoma River.
McGregor never lost control of the Senior men’s K1 race, and was comfortable to bide his time in third heading into the final turn. With two hundred metres to go McGregor swung out to the right and produced a devastating end-sprint that left the other three paddlers reeling in his wake.
So totally dominant was this coup de grâce that he was able to stop paddling to salute the large vocal contingent of South African supporters on the bank, and then toss his paddle away in celebration as he crossed the line.
Spanish ace Ivan Alonso took the silver medal, and Portugal’s Josa Ramalho the bronze medal.
How it unravelled
“It was a very tactical race,” said McGregor afterwards. “The best paddlers in the world were there and everyone had a good idea of everyone’s strengths and weaknesses. There is a lot of jostling, a lot of tactics, a lot of testosterone all thrown into a gladiator’s pit and you just hope you are the one that comes out on top.”
“For me it was a case of going around trying to limit the mistakes, conserve energy and wait for when it really counts.
McGregor said that during the race he was unaware that they were on the final lap of the race, explaining why the paddlers had not put in the expected charge into the final portage.
“I really didn’t know that we were going into the final lap,” said McGregor. “I shouted to my dad on the portage and he told me that we were on the last lap. I think people were expecting me to run really hard on the portages but I didn’t. I looked to conserve energy on the run.
“I decided to beat them on the water instead of on the portages and I that that really played into my favour because the others all ran really hard on the portages and then ran out of steam on the paddle leg,” said McGregor.
“I have been training really hard for a year to try and better myself with the MacSquad back home. I didn’t think I could run any faster so I have been working on my paddling doing a lot of resistance work.
McGregor dedicated the win to his newborn son Thorsten and wife Pippa, who had watched the race via live streaming at their home in Ballito.
In a reflective mood McGregor said he had enjoyed his long and successful marathon career. “I have loved every minute of it.”
“It was great having my friend Jasper Mocké on the front bunch today. The race was a lot of fun, even if it was pretty intense,” he added.
On the third lap the front group had consolidated into six paddlers, with the dominant athletes being McGregor, Cyrille Carre (France), Ivan Alonso (Spain) and Josa Ramalho (Portugal), with fellow South African Jasper Mocké and Javier Ruiz struggling to hang onto the back of the bunch.
Other South African successes
Earlier in the day the unheralded crew of Maritzburg College ace Louis Hattingh, who won the bronze medal in the Under 18 Boys K1 race on the first day of competition, and 15 year old Michaelhouse sprinter Jean van der Westhuizen, secured the first world title for team South Africa in a thrilling Under 18 Boys K2 race.
The duo was a dominant force throughout the race, and regularly asserted themselves on the portages. They led out of the last portage, and raced away to win going away from two strong Hungarian crews.
The South African Junior girls crew of Julia Trodd and Gerda Smit finished fourth after leading the second bunch for much of the race.
In the senior women’s K1 race, Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley finished tenth, just ahead of former compatriot and doubles partner Michele Eray, who was paddling for the USA.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
K2 Men Juniors
1 Louis Hattingh/Jean van der Westhuizen RSA 1:32:55.103
2 Oliver Gergely/Matya S Koleszar HUN 1:32:59.839
3 Antal Vidakovich/Peter Freistak HUN 1:33:38.715
4 Mads Brandt Petersen/Anders Thor Lundberg DEN 1:33:39.263
5 Tomas Vesely/Filip Skladal CZE 1:34:46.249
K2 Women Juniors
1 Noemi Lucs/Dara Solyom HUN 1:26:26.376
2 Tamara Takacs/Noemi Pupp HUN 1:26:29.864
3 Katrine Graesoll Christensen/Cathrin Rask DEN 1:26:35.752
4 Julia Trodd/Gerda Smit RSA 1:30:17.234
5 Irene Martin Vizcaino/Isabel Lopez Pinos ESP 1:30:36.736
K1 Women Senior
1 Renata Csay HUN 2:05:25.253
2 Lizzie Broughton GBR 2:05:27.733
3 Anna Koziskova CZE 2:06:14.321
4 Kristztina Bedocs SRB 2:07:12.343
5 Kate Leverett AUS 2:07:23.203
10 Bridgitte Hartley RSA 2:11:53.781
11 Michele Eray USA 2:11:54.645
K1 Men Senior
1 Hank McGregor RSA 2:12:07.157
2 Ivan Alonso ESP 2:12:12.181
3 Josa Ramalho POR 2:12:15.389
4 Cyrille Carre FRA 2:12:20.597
5 Javier Ruiz ESP 2:12:51.275
6 Jasper Mocké RSA 2:13:00.489
7 Keith Moule GBR 2:14:06.521
8 Adrian Boros HUN 2:14:10.609
9 Andreas Ihle GER 2:14:19.443
10 Edward Rutherford GBR 2:14:21.151
More at Canoeing South Africa canoesa.org.za