Denmark – A strong South African team will once again be expecting to return with a big medal haul from the 2023 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships which starts on Thursday in Vejen, Denmark.
Last year the team returned from Portugal with six medals, including two golds from the men’s under 23 and senior K1 events, which was enough for fourth overall on the medal table. However, the team-boat events saw South Africa come up short – something they are hoping to rectify this year.
Heading into the championships, Christie Mackenzie has moved up into the senior ranks and is cautiously excited to tackle the best of the best in the K1 event.
“It’s quite nice going into a race and not having too many expectations, because it is my first year as a senior,” the Euro Steel athletes said.
“I do want to have a good race and I’ve raced a number of these girls in previous years, but it’s a different ball game now and I’m now at the bottom of the food chain as one of the youngest on the start line.
“With that in mind, it does take some of the pressure off, but I am excited to finally be at the top of the racing pool and able to race the best people in the world.”
Mackenzie is focusing entirely on the K1 race at the World Championships this year and she will be joined in the senior women’s K1 by Nikki Birkett.
The men’s senior K1 boats will be that of defending champion Andy Birkett and 2022 under 23 champion Hamish Lovemore.
The senior K2 races will be hotly contested once again and on the men’s side Clinton Cook and Hamish Lovemore will be out to podium with Bradley Boule and Wayne Jacobs also eager to make a mark.
The women’s K2’s will include the Durban-based training pair of Michelle Burn and 2022 junior medallist in K1 and K2, Saskia Hockly, as well as the East London training partners Nikki Birkett and Jade Wilson.
From an under 23 perspective, the South African team will be hoping for another strong showing from Uli Hart in the men’s K1 race ,with Matt Fenn also out to prove that he is podium material.
Jade Wilson and Hockly will be the two boats in the women’s under 23 K1 and they too will be hoping to step onto the podium after their race.
The next generation of paddlers will be on display in the junior age groups and in the junior boys K1 race it’s Luke Salmon and Zak Jacobs who will represent South Africa and in the junior girls K1 race, Georgia Singe and Holly Smith will be hoping for world titles.
Salmon will then link up with Bruno Cochrane in the junior boys K2 race with Jared Shrimpton and Ryley Smith also involved and Smith and Singe will team up in the K2 race for the junior girls along with Babette van Rooyen and Neriyah Dill.
From a short course perspective Bridgitte Hartley, Christie Mackenzie, Uli Hart and Clinton Cook will be out to claim medals for Team South Africa.
The traditional pre-cursor to the elite World Champs is the ICF Masters Canoe Marathon World Championships and the six-man South African team grabbed four medals, including two golds.
The two stars of the show were Chris Visser and Pieter Engelbrecht who earned two medals apiece.
Visser opened the regatta with a bronze in the K1 65-69 age group where he outsprinted the Canoeing South Africa Secretary General, Colin Simpkins for the bronze medal in the race. However, the two teamed up and won the K2 event for the same age group the next day after a tight sprint with the Norwegian crew of paddling legend Einar Rasmussen and Gunnar Temoe.
Engelbrecht grabbed a silver in the K1 for the 50-54 age group and then teamed up with Matthew Ballenden and finished second in K2 race for the same age group.
For more information go to www.canoesa.org.za
Team South Africa for the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships
K1 Men Senior – Andy Birkett, Hamish Lovemore
K1 Women Senior – Christie Mackenzie, Nikki Birkett
K1 Men Senior Short Course – Clinton Cook, Uli Hart
K1 Women Senior Short Course – Bridgitte Hartley, Christie Mackenzie
K1 Men Under 23 – Uli Hart, Matt Fenn
K1 Women Under 23 – Saskia Hockly, Jade Wilson
K1 Men Junior – Luke Salmon, Zak Jacobs
K1 Women Junior – Georgia Singe, Holly Smith
K2 Men Senior – Hamish Lovemore/Clinton Cook, Wayne Jacobs/Bradley Boule
K2 Women Senior – Nikki Birkett/Jade Wilson, Michelle Burn/Saskia Hockly
K2 Men Junior – Jared Shrimpton/Ryley Smith, Luke Salmon/Bruno Cochrane
K2 Women Junior – Georgia Singe/Holly Smith, Babette van Rooyen/Neriyah Dill