Hank McGregor won his sixth South African Marathon Championship last weekend by winning two golds in the K1 and the K2 competitions. In the women’s races, Alexa Cole impressively achieved the same result in both disciplines. As this championship worked as SA national trials, both paddlers have now gained entry to the next Marathon World Championships to be held in Rome in September.
In cold and rainy weather at Mofam Dam, close to Cape Town, the quality of the race contestants was really high although not particularly crowded due to the start of the winter season in the Southern hemisphere. At the start line, a clear favourite was current world champion Hank McGregor, and a good bunch of aspirants including world medalist Len Jenkins Jr., the Mocke brothers, experienced Graeme Solomon and the recent winner of the surf ski Euro Challenge Simon van Gysen.
There was not much action in the first half of the race with a solid group in the lead, but all of them had an eye on McGregor's movements, as everybody was aware that he would be the one to control the pace.
Halfway through the race, it was Len Jenkins who tried to shake that relative calm, managing to break up the lead group after a portage. This tactic decided who would stand on the podium. With Jenkins, McGregor and van Gysen being the three paddlers fighting for the medals it was McGregor who set a demanding pace at the last portage, making a strong last lap with two rivals on his wash. McGregor from Durban claimed the gold, just a few seconds ahead of Len Jenkins with silver, and Simon van Gysen the bronze. McGregor continues to build on his successful career, with only the Dusi Marathon evading him lately. With a rather big gap of four minutes, Jasper Mocke and Graeme Solomon took fourth and fifth positions, perhaps relaxing after falling off the lead bunch and taking into consideration the K2 race on Sunday.
With regard to the women, Alexa Cole easily won the singles title, leading by 6 minutes ahead of the young and promising Robyn Kime, U23 winner, and also U23 Bianca Beavitt, who took bronze. All the results of Saturday’s races are available at this link.
On Sunday, the race appeared less predictable. Everything pointed to Hank McGregor and Grant van der Walt racing well, although Grant had been recovering from a back injury over the last few weeks. In fact, he didn't paddle the K1 and that evening, when everybody was watching the Springboks play rugby (you know what that means in South Africa...), van der Walt was testing himself in his kayak and doing some portages to gauge his progress.
Next morning, McGregor suggested they not race if Grant wasn't confident about his back, but van der Walt felt he could do a good job. As nobody knew how the favourites would respond in this situation, the race proved very tactical, with a leading group of six boats for the main part of the competition. The portages, with such a big group, posed the main conflict during the race. The first to pay for it were Graeme Solomon and Dawid Mocke, who got a hit in his kayak resulting in a hole that they managed to repair, although this resulted in them losing contact with the front bunch.
The remaining five boats managed to keep the pace despite the efforts of Jenkins and his partner, the sprinter Greg Louw, to break up the lead group during the portages. They even managed to make a small gap but McGregor and van der Walt closed this on the water, with the rest of the contestants riding their wash. Finally, in a very fast last lap, McGregor and van der Walt showed their superiority in the long distance and won a spectacular sprint with the five couples fighting for the medals and two tickets to Rome. Finally, silver and second place in the National Team went to two surf ski specialists, Jasper Mocke and the promising Simon van Gysen. The young Lance Kime and Heinrich Schloms claimed bronze and fourth place went to Jenkins and Louw, with Sean Rice and Brandon van der Walt, back in fifth place and taking the U23 title.
In the ladies race, again Alexa Cole took gold, this time with her partner Eloise van Gysen. They had an easy win against two U23 rivals who took silver and bronze - Robyn Kime/Kirsten Pedersen and Brittany Petersen/Kim van Gysen, completing a successful weekend for her family.
Below is a full list of Sunday’s race results:
1.Hank McGregor/Grant van der Walt 2:17:31.31
2.Simon van Gysen/Jasper Mocke 2:17:32.90
3.Lance King/Heinrich Schloms 2:17:33.63
4.Len Jenkins/Greg Louw 2:17:34.20
5.Sean Rice/Brandon van der Walt 2:17:41.01
1.Alexa Cole/Eloise van Gysen 2:13:26.07
2.Kirsten Penderis/Robyn Kime 2:15:54.41
3.Brittany Petersen/Kim van Gysen 2:16:03.33
1 Bianca Beavitt/Melanie van Niekerk 1:57:11.14
2 Marisa Pretorius/Esti van Tonder 2:00:57.81
1 Sean Rice/Brandon van der Walt 1:57:40.89
2 Ivan Kruger/Joseph Williams 2:01:32.48
3 Luke Stowman/Daniel Louis Buys 2:10:34.77
1 Justine Williams/Jermaine Goeieman 1:16:51.07
2 Bianca van Zyl/Nicole Smith 1:18:03.05
1 Mpilo Zondi/Andreas Beukes 1:10:46.37
2 James Horner/Bongani Ntinga 1:17:30.14
3 Alex Masina/Andrew Shuter 1:17:54.96
1 Kirsty Flanagan/Amy Hare 1:29:23.45
1 Johan Ubbink/David Rodrgues 1:54:07.94
2 Mthobisi Cele/Ndumiso Ngcobo 1:54:28.68
3 Francois Roux/David Methuizen 2:01:22.99
1 Kirsty Flanagan/Amy Hare 1:29:23.45
2 Kerry Shuter/Kerry Segal 1:34:07.68
3 Candice Murray/Kaylie Beers 1:38:17.31
1 Craig Flanagan/Dom Notten 1:40:29.11
2 Emile Thenissen/Jordan Zeelie 1:44:11.33
3 Kenny Rice/Nick Notten 1:44:12.66