The recently hosted ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Pietermaritzburg was a success on more than one front as the Elite Athlete Development Programme athletes accounted for six of the eight medals won by Team South Africa over the four days of racing last week.
The event was always going to put defending men’s K1 and K2 champion Hank McGregor in the spotlight and the veteran did not disappoint, retaining both the singles title and doubles title with Jasper Mocké for a third time in four years.
Andy Birkett was also impressive in his performances as he too grabbed two podium spots in the senior men’s K1 and K2. He paddled to a second successive silver medal in the K1 race and took home bronze in the men’s K2 with Michaelhouse schoolboy Jean van der Westhuyzen.
The brave challenge from the senior and under 23 women was strong, even if it didn’t yield a medal for Bridgitte Hartley and Kyeta Purchase in their respective K1 races.
The South African junior K1 men’s and women’s divisions were very impressive with young Alex Masina and Christie Mackenzie both bagging richly deserving bronze medals.
“I must admit, it still hasn’t quite sunk in yet!” Alex Masina mentioned recently.
“Every night I lie there and keep on rethinking it and smiling at what happened.
“But with that said, now that the event is over and I have won a medal I want to work harder and get better for next year.
“I have the motivation to keep on improving and with the help of the Natal Canoe Club and the EADP I can continue to get better.”
It has been a busy year for Masina, who was also involved in the South African team that took part in the ICF Junior and Under 23 Sprint World Championships in Romania where he took part in the Under 18 boys 500m and 1000m races.
Masina, who was raised in Daveyton, is now based at Natal Canoe Club and utilises one of the Elite Athlete Development Programme’s satellite stations at the clubhouse. Having his training facility so close to his school, Maritzburg Christian School, is something he appreciates.
“To have a training base that has all I need is such a bonus. It means that I can concentrate on training hard and racing hard and everything else is taken care of.
“I appreciate all of the hard work that the EADP and NCC have put into getting me fit and strong as well as ready for all of my races.
“To be able to relax and know that everything is looked after means that I can focus completely on being race ready and at my peak,” a grateful Masina added.
Dennis Jackson, Prime’s High Performance Director, was quick to praise all of the paddlers that represented South Africa and the EADP.
“We are immensely proud of the EADP results this past weekend,” Jackson said.
“Picking up six world championship medals is the best haul at the Championships that the EADP paddlers have received in the four years that the program has run.
“Hank’s continued domination of the sport is an amazing feat and shows what can be achieved with training and determination over a prolonged period.
“Also very encouraging were the youngsters that have come through with medals (Christie and Alex) as well as Kyeta who placed seventh U23 with still three years remaining in that age group.
“Andy also showed that he too will one day take the top step of the podium. This shows that the future is looking bright for paddling in SA and particularly in KZN.
“Well done to all the athletes and to the dedicated coaches for such amazing results,” he concluded.