Vejen, Denmark — Andy Birkett and Christie Mackenzie added to the medal tally for South Africa on the penultimate day of the 2023 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Vejen, Denmark, but there was no dream gold for the pair in the elite K1 races.
Defending World Champion Birkett was forced to concede his title after a blistering attack on the portage at the end of the fourth lap of eight by the European Champion Mads Pedersen. The sprint into the portage, a quick run and a power interval away after the put-in gave the Dane a small gap which he quickly grew to 45 seconds by the time he took out for the next portage a lap later.
From there Pedersen had the gold medal secured and it was a race for second which saw Birkett, Portugal’s Jose Ramalho and Norway’s Eivind Vold fight for the lower steps of the podium.
In the sprint for the line Birkett came off the wave to claim silver and edge out Vold with Ramalho the first paddler to miss out on a medal.
A group further back, one of the pre-race favourites, Ivan Alonso from Spain, recovered from a swim after a portage to claim fifth with South Africa’s 2022 U23 Champion Hamish Lovemore outsprinting the group to end sixth.
Earlier in the day, Mackenzie traded in her U23 bronze medal from 12 months ago in Portugal for a senior medal of the same colour when she claimed a solid third place in the elite women’s race.
Vanda Kiszli successfully defended her title with Sweden’s Melina Andersson making sure the top two steps of the women’s podium remained identical to 2022. Mackenzie stepped up to give another indication of her potential to become force in international marathon racing with an impressive third.
In other races on Saturday, the South African men’s U23 paddlers found the pace too fast and Zak Jacobs finished 26th with Luke Salmon failing to complete the race.
Sunday’s final day of the championships will see the doubles crews in action with the pair of Lovemore and Clinton Cook, along with Wayne Jacobs and Bradley Boulle leading the charge for the men, while Saskia Hockly and Michelle Burn will join Nicole Birkett and Hjade Wilson in the women’s K2 race. The Jared Shrimpton / Ryley Smith and Bruno Cochrane / Luke Salmon crews will carry the hopes of South Africa in the junior K2.
1 Mads Pedersen (DEN) 1:57:57.48
2 Andy Birkett (RSA) 2:00:29.33
3 Eivind Vold (NOR) 2:00:30.20
4 Jose Ramalho (POR) 2:00:31.19
5 Ivan Alonso (ESP) 2:00:43.67
6 Hamish Lovemore (RSA) 2:00:46.51
1 Vanda Kiszli (HUN) 1:56:58.92
2 Melina Andersson (SWE) 1:58:50.10
3 Christie Mackenzie (RSA) 1:59:05.43
8 Nicole Birkett (RSA) 2:00:40.36
1 Vicente Vergauven (ARG) 1:34:54.03
2 Joaquin Catalano (ARG) 1:34:55.67
3 Arpad Kekesi (HUN) 1:34:57.00
26 Zak Jacobs (RSA) 1:44:43.82
DNF Luke Salmon (RSA)