With three of the major national canoeing unions staging their marathon championships in the coming fortnight, the build-up to the 2019 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in China in October has started in earnest.
A well supported weekend of flatwater marathon racing at Shongweni Dam outside Hillcrest saw the KwaZulu-Natal titles decided for 2019 and their teams for the national champs at Cradle Moon north of Johannesburg on 15 to 17 June.
One of the other major marathon centres in the country, the Western Cape, will have their championships this weekend.
The Eastern Cape and Gauteng Champs will be held on 1 and 2 June, with the latter serving as a dress rehearsal for the national champs a fortnight later.
CSA Marathon Committee head Malcolm Stothard says that despite the unique challenges being faced in the 2019 season, interest in places in the national men’s and women’s team for the World Championships in Shaoxing is very strong.
“Our world champions Hank McGregor and Andy Birkett have submitted their nomination forms, as have many of the top women and juniors,” noted Stothard. “That bodes well for a strong Team SA at worlds in October, especially with a number of juniors who did well in Portugal last year keen to be back again this year.
The national team will be chosen from the South African championships at the new marathon racing venue at the Cradle Moon Lake near Muldersdrift, making the three days of racing a critical part of any aspirant athletes planning.
“We are getting great feedback from the paddlers about the venue. Some of the out-of-province paddlers have been training at Cradle Moon to get used to the course, so we are expecting great racing,” said Stothard. “A huge amount of effort has gone into organising the event, especially the high standard set at St Francis at last year’s SA champs.”
Stothard said he expected the China venue to result in smaller fields from virtually every major canoeing nation given the travel involved. “I don’t think South Africa will have as big a team of veterans and masters for the Masters Cup as we usually do, but I am certain that the standard of the team will be very high.”
With McGregor and Birkett both confirmed, and perennial marathon stalwarts like Stu MacLaren factored in, the looming SA Champs should provide a solid litmus test for the SA Team that the selectors will finalise for the showdown in Shaoxing.
The move of KZN paddler Clinton Cook to Johannesburg has also done a lot to invigorate marathon paddling on the highveld where the veterans and masters have traditionally been strong, but the senior men and women have had to play second fiddle to KZN and the Western Cape in recent years.
26, 2 June May Western Cape Marathon Champs, Zandvlei
1,2 June Eastern Cape Marathon Champs,
1,2 June Gauteng Marathon Champs, Cradle Moon
15-17 June SA Marathon Champs, Cradle Moon