The country’s best canoe marathon paddlers will battle it out for national titles and the coveted spots on the South African team at this week’s South African Marathon Championships at Hazelmere Dam from 16-18 June.
The dam on the north coast of KwaZulu-Natal will host its first national championships and has been given a solid green light from paddlers and spectators that were present at the new venue for the KZN Marathon Championships a month ago.
A lot of work has been done by the team at the Msinsi Resort to get the venue in the best possible shape to host one of the premier national title showdowns of the South African canoeing calendar.
Unusually the top men’s K1 boats have already clash in the heat of competition in the run-up to the national championships.
The likes of defending champion Hamish Lovemore, the evergreen multiple world champion Hank McGregor and former world champion Andy Birkett have all raced each other at the recent Western Province and KwaZulu-Natal provincial championships.
The fight for the top two spots, given that only the top two finishers can represent South Africa at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships, is going to be intense.
The old guard of McGregor and Birkett will be sure to be on the front bunch but they will have a number of challengers this year and Lovemore is making it clear he plans to claim the overall title. Add to this mix a strong contingent from the Western Cape that includes Nicky Notten and a solid Gauteng challenge.
The women’s racing should prove to be just as exciting with a number of paddlers showing good form coming into this week’s racing.
None more so than Bridgitte Hartley who showed that her marathon racing skills are continuously improving.
Hartley recently won bronze in both the short course and the long course at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Cup in Prague.
Despite these achievements, Hartley will be challenged for the overall women’s crown by the ever-present Jenna Nisbet, Nikki Birkett and Michelle Burn, who has made a return to top form following her shoulder injury.
Under 23 star Christie Mackenzie will be out to claim another Under 23 women’s title this weekend.
The junior K1 and K2 racing will be just as exciting as the Under 18 paddlers all strive to claim the two places on the boys and girls K1 and K2 team to go to Portugal.
The excitement will be there as the public look to the future of marathon racing in South Africa.
The two Under 23 K1 races in the men’s and women’s category have historically been tight contests and this age bracket has produced medals for South Africa at the World Championships.
All Under 23 paddlers wanting to race in K2’s must race in the senior category as there is no Under 23 K2 category.
Looking at the K2 combinations set to do battle in the senior age category.
Birkett will team up with Nick Notten, Lovemore will partner Clinton Cook while a former gold medal winning partnership will be rekindled when McGregor partners Jasper Mocké.
Looking at the women’s K2 race Jenna Nisbet and Pippa McGregor will race together while Bridgitte Hartley races with Nix Birkett. In the junior girls race the Hockly sisters Saskia and Valmajean will be tough to beat.
The junior boys pair of Joshua Simpkins and Matt Coetzer will go into their race as firm favourites given their success on the international stage in 2021.
More details can be found at www.canoesa.org.za
SA Marathon Championships Programme of Events
09:00 K1 U/23 MEN
09:05 K1 U/23 WOMEN
12:00 K1 JUNIOR BOYS U/18
12:00 K1 JUNIOR BOYS U/16
12:02 K1 JUNIOR GIRLS U/18
12:02 K1 JUNIOR GIRLS U/16
12:04 K1 JUNIOR BOYS U/14
12:06 K1 JUNIOR GIRLS U14
14:30 K1 MENS SHORT COURSE
15:00 K1 LADIES SHORT COURSE
08:30 K1 SUB VETERAN MEN
08:32 K1 VETERAN MEN
08:34 K1 SUB MASTER MEN
08:36 K1 MASTER MEN
08:38 K1 SUB GRANDMASTER MEN
08:40 K1 GRANDMASTER MEN
08:42 K1 MASTER WOMEN 35 – 64 YEARS
08:44 K1 MASTER MEN 65+
08:46 K1 MASTER WOMEN 65+
08:48 C1 Men and WOMEN
11:00 K1 GUPPY U/12 BOYS
11:05 K1 GUPPY U/12 GIRLS
11:10 K1 GUPPY U/10 BOYS
11:15 K1 GUPPY U/10 GIRLS
11:20 K1 GUPPY U/8 BOYS / GIRLS
12:00 K2 JUNIOR BOYS U/18
12:00 K2 JUNIOR BOYS U/16
12:02 K2 JUNIOR GIRLS U/18
12:02 K2 JUNIOR GIRLS U/16
12:04 K2 JUNIOR BOYS U/14
12:06 K2 JUNIOR GIRLS U/14
14:00 K1 SENIOR MEN
14:05 K1 SENIOR WOMEN
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