South African paddling icon Hank McGregor is a veteran when mentioned in the same score as the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships and despite six World Championship titles to his name already, his foot is still firmly on the gas as he eyes out another K1 and potentially a K2 title when the showpiece takes place in Brandenberg, Germany from 16 to 18 September.
The venue for the 2016 event is not one that McGregor is familiar with but the 36 year-old has spent time recently surveying the course and believes the German facility may well suit him better than the course in Gyor, Hungary where he won gold in the K1 event and silver in the K2 with doubles partner, Jasper Mocké.
“After all the years of racing international marathon championships, the German course is still one that I haven’t raced on,” the Euro Steel/Kayak Centre ace mentioned.
“From what I can see, the course is far more open than last year’s.
“Also it isn’t on a river, which will suit me more, and if the wind picks up then the race might become a little like a surfski race, which again should benefit me.
“At about 210 metres, the portage is about three times as long as last year’s, so if you are not a strong runner then you might battle.”
Despite his age qualifying him for the precursor to the World Championships – the ICF Canoe Marathon Masters World Cup – McGregor’s focus remains firmly on another senior gold medal in the K1 clash while also glancing at another shot at adding another K2 gold medal to the one he won with Mocké in 2014.
“I have raced in enough World Championships to know what the pace will be and how intense the front of the race is going to be, so I am not concerned about how the race is going to play out.
“Being fit enough, strong enough and healthy enough is always the most important thing for me and if I tick all those boxes then I know that I will be in with a chance of winning.
“My partner, Jasper Mocké, is also in good form at the moment and came off a good win at the Breede Canoe Marathon recently, so if we can just make sure we remain fit and healthy then I think we should be in with a good shout in the K2 race as well.
“Having narrowly missed out on gold in the K2 last year in the end sprint, we have got more than enough motivation to rectify that this year and we are going out there to do our best and give it a proper shot,” added McGregor.
The world’s best marathon paddlers will gather to attempt to dethrone McGregor – who has claimed the global K1 crown a remarkable four times in the past five years – and with the majority of the challenge likely to come from Europe, McGregor understands the threat that the rest of the field poses to his crown.
“I can’t really single out any specific challenger but the Portuguese, Spanish and Hungarians always provide a really stern test.
“Andy Birkett will also be there and he has been going really well with his World Cup win recently, so the field is going to be incredibly strong and I will need to make sure I am in good shape and healthy so I can be in with a chance,” explained a confident McGregor.