There couldn’t have been a better ending to the South African Marathon Team selection campaign. The ICF World Marathon Championship is just under a month away, and will see only the best of South Africa’s paddling crop make it through K1 and K2 selection. With only two spots on the national team in each age division, South Africa’s paddling giants were not about to make any mistakes.
Hank McGregor (Team Jeep, Euro Steel) set out what he achieved to do and walked away with a K2 Gold and a K1 Silver medal at the Flatwater Marathon Canoeing Championship at Camps Drift, Pietermaritzburg this past weekend of 11-13 August.
In Saturday’s K1 title race, reigning World Marathon Champion, McGregor, battled it out against seven-time Dusi Canoe Marathon winner, Andy Birkett. The final lap of the sought-after K1 title race ended in a sprint for finish with Birkett pipping McGregor to the line by just two seconds in 02:12:16 with McGregor in 02:12 18.
The K1 result ensures Birkett and McGregor will represent South Africa at the highly anticipated, ICF World Marathon Championship to be held in South Africa at Pietermaritzburg’s Camps Drift from 8 to 10 September.
A happy Hank McGregor said, “Job done – selection for the South African Marathon Team. It was some awesome racing in PMB. I really enjoyed my race and am stoked to be racing marathons again. I’m really looking forward to World Champs with my fellow team mate, Andy Birkett!”
The men’s K2 race was just as fast and furious after whittling down to just four boats turning for the final 800m dash to the finish of the 30km race with Hank McGregor/Jasper Mocké, Andy Birkett/Jean Van der Westhuyzen, Stuart Maclaren/ Kenneth Rice, and Brandon van der Walt/Clint Cook all firing for the line.
McGregor and Mocké reigned victorious beating Birkett and van der Westhuyzen by just two seconds in 02:03:13. Birkett and Van der Westhuyzen (02:03:15) fought to the line to beat third placed Maclaren and Rice by just one second in the most exciting K2 finish of all time.
“This was the first time Jasper and I jumped into a boat together since last year’s world championships in Brandenberg. It was cat and mouse all the way to the finish! We managed to find our rhythm as the day went along, and were trying out new things to better ourselves because in the end, a win by a split second or two is all you have. Everything helps.” said McGregor.
Wishing Hank and Andy all the best!