South African river paddling stars Hank McGregor and Christie Mackenzie showed their impressive form ahead of the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships by winning the SA K1 River Championship titles at the recent Standard Bank Liebenbergsvlei Canoe Marathon.
With just a few weeks to go until the country’s best flat-water marathon paddlers jet off to Romania for the world championships, Euro Steel’s McGregor and Varsity College/Euro Steel’s Mackenzie proved they are in good shape ahead of their European trip.
The national title took McGregor one step closer to that magical number ten for national river K1 titles, but it was exciting racing for the veteran on a river that he had never raced on before.
“It’s always fun and exciting racing on water that you have never paddled on before,” he said.
“I always enjoy the unknown of racing on a river blind and the racing was exciting through the two days because there was a strong field of paddlers hoping to win the title.
“I am really happy to come away with the win especially as I am pretty tired but it was a good race and it was good training for Romania.
“To then win the K2 race with my wife Pippa on Sunday was another highlight for us!”
McGregor had a tough task of holding off the Gauteng duo of Clinton Cook and Wayne Jacobs as well as dealing with the young Sam Butcher and the likes of Msawenkosi Mtolo, Thulani Mbanjwa and another Under 23 paddler Liam Stewart from Gauteng.
Ultimately McGregor’s experience saw him claim the gold medal ahead of Cook by just under two minutes while Jacobs sewed up the bronze medal.
In the women’s race Mackenzie had a tough fight on her hands with fellow marathon star Jenna Nisbet and the two fought it out right to the line.
In the end it was the now Johannesburg-based Mackenzie who stuck the victory by just over ten seconds from Nisbet.
Under 16 star Valmajean Hockly locked up the bronze medal and with it the Under 18 girls crown.
The men’s Under 23 gold medal went to Sam Butcher ahead of Liam Stewart in second and Mpilo Zondi in third while Sandile Mbanjwa was the first Under 18 boy across the line.