Despite the arrival of bitterly cold weather, this weekend will see red-hot canoeing competition at Homestead Lake in Benoni as the country’s top flatwater marathon paddlers vie for the national crowns, and a place in the national team to the World Championships in Oklahoma City later in the year.
Despite the fact that marathon racing is in a particularly good place, with two world champions in Men’s K1 champ Hank McGregor and Under 23 Men’s K1 champ Andy Birkett, the organisers have been bowled over by the massive field of 382 entries in 200 K1s and 91 K2s over the two days of racing, and have been forced to extend their entry date to accommodate for even more late entries.
Added to that entry are five elite Australian paddlers who have opted to contest the SA Championships as part of their preparation for the World Champs in the USA on September 27 and 28.
With McGregor out to defend his world K1 title, the racing in the senior men’s event will be particularly tight, as the national selectors will send only the first two boats across the line to the world championships.
Dusi champion Andy Birkett, who dramatically won the Under 23 World Championships in a needle tussle with countryman Brandon van der Walt in Copenhagen, is now racing in the senior ranks, and will have win outright or finish second to secure his place in the K1 men’s starting line-up.
The situation is rosier for Van Der Walt, a former junior world champion, as he is still in the Under 23 age group, and has a serious chance of going one better than the silver medal he won in Copenhagen last year.
A strong Cape challenge will be fronted by veteran Graeme Solomon, surfski ace Dawid Mocké and the on-form Louw van Riet.
The pacesetters in the women’s division look set to be London Olympics bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley and Dusi star Abie Adie.
With South African sending two boats in the Men’s and Women’s Junior, Under 23 and Senior age groups, Sundays K2 racing will afford paddlers that have missed the selection cut a chance to challenge for a place in the national squad to Oklahoma City in K2s.
A significant portion of the huge entry has come from the veteran and masters age groups, where South Africa is particularly strong. In an exact parallel to the Juniors, Under 23s and Seniors, the national selectors will also be choosing two boats in each Veteran and Masters age group to travel to the Masters Cup event that precedes the Marathon World Championships every year.
Marathon racing is conducted in laps, with the Homestead lake lap measuring 3,6 kilometres, with a 100 metre portage at the end of every lap. The races will includes K1 and K2 classes as well the C1 and C2 canoe classes that requite paddlers to race in a kneeling position with single bladed paddle.
Saturday 7th June
07h30 Paddlers meeting.
08h30 Racing Starts. All K1 and C1 races
16h00 Medal ceremony.
Sunday 8th June
07h30 Paddlers meeting.
08h30 Racing Starts. All K2 and C2 races
15h30 Final medal ceremony.