Both the men’s and women’s K1 titles at the SA Marathon Championships at Hazelmere Dam ended in nail-biting sprint finishes as Hamish Lovemore claimed another senior men’s title and Bridgitte Hartley continued her good form to wrap up the women’s national K1 title on Friday.
With eleven-times world champion Hank McGregor opting not to race the K1 race to stay focussed on his short course and K2 races, the dice for the men’s national K1 titles and places to the world champs in Portugal was going to be a fast-paced and unforgiving contest, with defending champion Hamish Lovemore the man to watch.
There was some drama in the early part of the senior men’s K1 race when a rope from one of the buoys caused Clinton Cook to come unstuck while Mark Keeling and Nick Notten also got tangled up in it.
Cook withdrew as he has the K2 race on Saturday but Keeling and Notten were welcomed back onto the front bunch by the four paddlers that got away cleanly.
The group was then whittled down to four with Andy Birkett, Hamish Lovemore, Uli Hart and Nick Notten taking control at the front of the race.
Birkett, Lovemore and Hart then managed to drop Notten and got themselves into a trio that were going to fight it out for the places on the podium.
The men’s race came down to an exciting final three-way sprint but it was Lovemore and Birkett who managed to nudge ahead of Hart to fight it out to the line.
In the end Lovemore pipped Birkett right at the end of the race to see him do the K1 double after winning the Under 23 race on Thursday and then backing it up with a senior gold medal for the second year in a row.
It was another prime display from Lovemore who was happy to win the title in his home province.
“I’m super happy with the race and it was super fun even though no one really knew too much about what was happening in the first two laps!” Lovemore said.
“It then got down to three boats and we tested each other and then it came down to the final portage and I was quite happy to be conservative and sit on the wave.
“I backed myself to come past on the end sprint and when I got in front I was very excited and am super happy to win the title in KZN.”
In the women’s K1 showdown there was a group of three with Bridgitte Hartley, Nikki Birkett and Kira Bester quickly settling down at the front of the race.
Bester came off the Under 23 race on Thursday and didn’t have the power to stay with Birkett and Hartley who then made it into a two-boat race.
The women’s race finished in a two-way sprint to the line and the in-form Hartley got ahead of Nikki Birkett to take the gold medal while Birkett finished second to book her spot on the national team for the World Championships.
For Hartley, she knew it was going to be a race in her favour if she got it down to an end sprint.
“It’s always a tough race and that last little bit is a killer for anyone but it was good to put in a good effort for every portage,” Hartley said.
“Towards the end I just slowly tried to pick it up and coming from a sprinting background I love the last 500 metres so I come into my own in that stretch.”
The racing on Friday started with the age group K1 racing and as always the veteran and masters age categories were hard fought with many paddlers from across the country hoping to take home national honours.
The guppy racing was also exciting as boy and girl paddlers from Under 8 to Under 12 took to the water in K1 races.
The afternoon session kicked off with the junior K2 racing following some exciting boys and girls K1 racing on Thursday.
The Junior Boys K2 race became a race of three very early on as the crews of favourites Matthew Coetzer and Josh Simpkins, Luke Salmon and Jack Shooter and Luke Jean le Roux and Josh Smith establishing themselves as the top crews.
In a tough break for the pair of Shooter and Salmon they ran into rudder problems when they put in after the second portage which ended their charge for a junior K2 title and left two boats at the front to fight it out.
In an exciting end sprint in the Junior Boys race the pre-race favourites Simpkins and Coetzer got their noses ahead on the final portage and held off Smith and Le Roux to claim the title.
Ross Palframan and Joshua Glyn-Cuthbert won an exciting end sprint to take third.
The Under 18 Junior girls K2 race was on the go at the same time and early on that race narrowed down to two boats with Saskia Hockly and her sister Valmajean taking on Tannah Smith and Neriyah Dill for the gold medal.
It was the Hockly siblings that showed they were in a class apart when they powered home to victory in the Junior Girls K1 race.
Second place went to Tannah Smith and Neriyah Dill while it was Caitlyn Evans and Helen Jansen van Vuuren who came home in third.
Saturday’s third and final day of racing sees the K2 racing take centre stage with the senior men’s and women’s K2 racing round out the competition.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – SA Marathon Championships Day Two
Senior Men K1
1 Hamish Lovemore 2:11:55.78
2 Andy Birkett 2:11:56.32
3 Uli Hart 2:12:00.17
4 Nicholas Notten 2:17:10.69
5 Mark Keeling 2:22:12.34
Senior Women K1
1 Bridgitte Hartley 2:11:18.96
2 Nix Birkett 2:11:19.93
3 Kira Bester 2:15:58.05
Junior Girls K2
1 Saskia Hockly/Valmajean Hockly 1:30:01.35
2 Tannah Smith/Neriyah Dill 1:30:44.54
3 Helen Jansen van Vuuren/Caitlyn Evans 1:36:56.33
4 Chiara Vorster/Babette van Rooyen 1:37:05.55
5 Sarah Jones/Megan O’Connor 1:46:10.35
Junior Boys K2
1 Matthew Coetzer/Joshua Simpkins 1:41:27.08
2 Luke Jean Le Roux/Josh Smith 1:41:34.44
3 Ross Palframan/Joshua Glyn-Cuthbert 1:44:56.87
4 James Goble/Benjamin Maehler 1:44:57.73
5 Luke Salmon/Jack Shooter 1:46:13.51
6 Theo Dreyer/Lungelo Gumede 1:49:22.33
7 Tyde Malherbe/Daniel Van Zyl-Smit (U16) 1:49:30.47
8 Cody Stallard/Zak Jacobs (U16) 1:50:44.30
9 Bruno Cochrane/Nicholas Erwee 1:50:46.69
10 Senzo Ngcobo/Wandile Dube (U16) 1:52:56.46
SA Marathon Championships Programme of Events
08:30 K2 SUB VETERAN MEN
08:32 K2 VETERAN MEN
08:34 K2 SUB MASTER MEN
08:36 K2 MASTER MEN
08:38 K2 SUB GRANDMASTER MEN
08:40 K2 GRANDMASTER MEN
08:42 K2 MASTER WOMEN 35 – 64 YEARS
08:44 K2 MASTER MEN 65+
08:46 K2 MASTER WOMEN 65+
08:48 C2 Men and WOMEN
11:00 K2 SENIOR MEN
11:05 K2 SENIOR WOMEN