Hungary were completely dominant on the opening day of the ICF World Marathon Canoe Championships on Thursday, but the South African duo of Sifiso “Alex” Masina and Christie Mackenzie won the hearts of the local fans at Camps Drift.
Hungary claimed no less than seven medals from the four medal events on the opening day’s action with an almost perfect four golds and three silvers, but it was the two bronze medals for the South African team that had the local fans screaming with delight.
The final event of the day, the junior men’s race, was won by Hungarian Ádám Varga in the most dominant display of power-paddling seen on Day 1. Masina looked to be out of contention for a medal when three paddlers broke away from the start and he was left off the pace in fourth.
However, Varga’s decision to paddle away from his rivals by himself meant the never-say-day South African was able to first haul in Briton Charlie Smith, and then Varga’s compatriot István Lukács. That set up a three-man group to fight for silver and bronze.
As the trio wound up for the final sprint Smith powered away and his silver medal was safe from 200m out, while Masina was able to hold off the Hungarian and claim a historic bronze.
The race was an emotional roller coaster for the South African as he bravely kept fighting for position throughout.
“They were just too fast for me off the start,” he said shortly after the finish. “But I have been doing a lot of distance and not a lot of speed so I was able to catch up again.
“After the start, when they were all ahead of me I thought I was going to be fourth. But then when the English guy dropped off the lead group I knew his pace must drop and I worked hard to catch him. Then the Hungarian also dropped off so me and the English guy worked hard together and caught him.
“I only realised I would get the medal about 100m from the end. I thought the Hungarian was going to get me at the finish but I just hung on. It is incredible. This means so much for me, it means a lot – a lot.”
Masina’s bronze was matched by compatriot Christie Mackenzie in the junior women’s race, the first event of the day, although she was somewhat gifted the medal.
The Hungarian duo of Zsóka Csikós and Dorina Fekete set the tone when they broke away on the first lap and were left to fight for the gold and silver medals between them. Csikós was too strong at the finish and Fekete could not come over her wake in the end sprint.
Behind the two Hungarians, it was a case of good luck and bad luck for the South African pair of Mackenzie cousins. After Caitlin Mackenzie was knocked out of her boat in a clash of paddles at the start, her cousin Christie claimed what ended up to be an easy bronze medal when Italian Teresa Isotta fell out and blocked Mackenzie’s rivals.
Running just behind Christie Mackenzie in the chase group at the end of the final portage, Isotta fell out while getting back into her boat at the end of the portage and blocked everybody else just long enough to provide Christie Mackenzie with an easy paddle home to third position.
Masina raced to his medal well behind the Hungarian juggernaut Adam Varga, who defended his junior world title in emphatic style. Masina was left in a three boat race with István Lukács of Hungary and Briton Charlie Smith. Masina kept his composure to drop Lukács and narrowly lost the sprint for silver to Smith.
An elated Masina afterwards said he was encouraged by the way that he managed to fight his way back onto the front bunch, after initially leading the race up to the first turn before being dropped.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – 2017 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships Day One
K1 juniors women
1. Zsóka Csikós (HUN) 1:35:45,39
2. Dorina Fekete (HUN) 1:35:45,95
3. Christie Mackenzie (RSA) 1:37:30
4. Nora Rey (ESP) 1:38:04,33
5. Erin Blanch (AUS) 1:38:05,63
C1 Junior Women (non-medal event)
1. Giada Bragato (HUN) 1:36:46,64
2. Mathilde Troncin (FRA) 1:37:01,67
3. Maja Szajdek (POL) 1:44:00,74
K1 women under 23
1. Sára Anna Mihalik (HUN) 1:49:43,12
2. Zsófia Czéllai-Vörös (HUN) 1:50:11,90
3. Alexandra Lane (GBR) 1:52:15,92
4. Tania Álvarez (ESP) 1:52:30,25
5. Emilie Rosenkilde (DEN) 1:53:04,08
7. Kyeta Purchase (RSA) 1:58:25,27
8. Kerry Segal (RSA) 1:58:27,37
C1 men junior
1. Balázs Adolf (HUN) 1:40:53,67
2. Sebestyén Simon (HUN) 1:41:07,70
3. Duarte Silva (POR) 1:43:18,76
4. Yaroslov Shelestenko Ocuneva (ESP) 1:47:25,59
5. David Blanco (ESP) 1:49:47,53
K1 men junior
1. Ádám Varga (HUN) 1: 41:35,66
2. Charlie Smith (GBR) 1:44:17,03
3. Sifiso “Alex” Masina (RSA) 1:44:20,89
4. István Lukács (HUN) 1:44:29,49
5. Ronan Foley (IRL) 1:45:49,98
6. Uli Hart (RSA) 1:47:10,85
Schedule – Friday
09:00 – K2 Women Junior
09:05 – C1 Men Under 23
11:50 – K2 Men Junior
11:55 – C2 Men Junior
14:45 – K1 Men Under 23