The paddling community is celebrating the Steve Tshwete Lifetime Achievement Award presented to Lee McGregor at the recent SA Sports Awards in Bloemfontein.
67 year old McGregor drives the MacSquad training programme based at Blue Lagoon, capping a sporting career that has included represented South Africa over fifty times in swimming, surf lifesaving and canoeing, where he has broken numerous world records and won world titles at Masters swimming and canoeing.
Much of his athletic prime was spent during the years of sporting isolation and he was never given the chance to fully test himself against the world’s best, but he has channelled his passion for sport into inspiring and coaching the next generation of athletes, while remaining a highly competitive athlete in his own right.
The athletes he has nurtured included his son Hank McGregor, who has set a world record by winning eleven world marathon championship titles, in addition to victories at almost every major surfski and river marathon race on the global calendar.
Lee McGregor’s MacSquad includes many paddlers that have gone on to achieve international success, from Jenna Ward (two times bronze medallist K1 U23 world marathons), Ward and Kyeta Purchase winning a women’s K2 silver medal in 2016, Purchase’s bronze medal in the U18 K1 marathon champs, Hamish MacKenzie and David Evans’ silver medal in the U18 Boys K2 marathon, Christie MacKenzie winning a bronze medal in the K1 U18 girls marathon and numerous Masters medallists at Masters World Championships.
McGregor is also currently involved in coaching High Performance Development in Kwazulu-Natal, and has set his sights on guiding these youngsters to achieve on the a world stage and believe that they can be a world champions.
A humbled McGregor said he appreciated the honour, and said the attention should be focussed on the ability sport has to galvanise a nation.
“After all these years of waiting for some sort of recognition for the years of training and swimming hoping to get a chance to compete, which never ever happened, it is great to know that your country has remembered you,” said McGregor.
“Who cares about those lost years? We are all in the same boat now and the only thing that is going to bring South Africa together is sport and music, so that is why we are doing what we do.
“To be recognised after all these years is a tremendous honour. I am very very proud,” he concluded.