McGregor masters the wind at SA Marathon Champs

Hank McGregor mastered the treacherous windy conditions at Zandvlei to win the Prescient SA Marathon Championships on Saturday. PIC: John Hishin/Cape Town Sport Photography

Cape Town – Hank McGregor mastered the treacherous windy conditions at Zandvlei to win the Prescient SA Marathon Championships on Saturday, setting him up for a bid at winning another world title in Germany in September.

McGregor out-sprinted his Euro Steel team mate Andy Birkett to claim the title and reverse the outcome of last year’s title race, both paddlers earning their selection for the South African team to the world title decider in Brandenberg.

“I am stoked with this win,” said McGregor. “There were five boats together coming into the last turn and the tough conditions asked a lot of questions.

Birkett did well to secure the silver, after falling out of his kayak twice during the race, with former Under 23 World Champ Brandon van der Walt wrapping up the last spot on the podium.

The women’s title fell to surfski specialist Nikki Russell, in a thrilling duel with local racer Bianca Beavitt.

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Nikki Russell won the ladies K1 Title ahead of Bianca Beavitt. PIC: John Hishin/Cape Town Sport Photography

Earlier Louis Hattingh won the men’s Under 23 title, while his partner to the 2014 junior K2 world title Jean van der Westhuyzen romped to victory in the Under 18 category.

Jenna Ward, a double world champs bronze medallist, downed a gutsy Melanie van Niekerk to claim the Under 23 women’s title, with MacSquad team mate Kyeta Purchase equally impressive winning the junior title.

In Sunday’s K2 racing, Andy Birkett and Louis Hattingh won a thrilling senior men’s K2 race to complete a weekend of racing while Olympic medallist Bridgitte Hartley and teammate Abby Solms took the women’s title in an equally thrilling race.

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Simon Van Gysen and Jakub Adam lead a classy Men’s K2 field across a mirror-like Zandvlei. PIC: John Hishin/Cape Town Sport Photography

Birkett and Hattingh were locked in a tense four boat race throughout the 29km race, held in ideal clam conditions in sharp contrast to the gale force winds that dominated the first days racing, with locals Brandon van der Walt and Stu McLaren, Simon van Gysen and Czech Republic star Jakub Adam and world champ Hank McGregor, who raced with Soweto talent Siseko Ntondini after his regular team mate Jasper Mocké was sidelined by flu.

After a dramatic penultimate portage, McGregor and Ntondini were dropped off the front bunch with Van Gysen and Adam, leaving two K2 crews to slug it out over the last two kilometres.

Birkett, a former Under 23 world champ and Hattingh, who won the junior world title in 2014, timed their interval to the line perfectly to hold off Van Der Walt and McLaren by less than a boat length.

“It feels fantastic to win it, especially after such as close race,” said Birkett. “I can’t wait to race with Louis (Hattingh) at the world champs in Germany in September.”

“He is very calm in the race and aggressive when he has to be,” he added. “He is racing with maturity and experience beyond his years.”

There was a great deal riding in the race after the confirmation that Mocké would not be racing, and had put in a written motivation for exemption to the national selectors to allow the EuroSteel pairing of himself and McGregor, winners of gold and silver at the last two world championships, to be considered for the national team.

The K2 silver and K1 bronze signalled the return to top form on Brandon van der Walt, following on from his successes as a junior and Under 23 marathoner.

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Louis Hattingh and Andy Birkett (right) pull away from Brandon van der Walt and Stu McLaren in the closing stages of the Men’s K2 event. PIC: John Hishin/Cape Town Sport Photography

The women’s title was decided in almost carbon-copy like fashion as Hartley and Solms turned into the finish straight with double Under 23 bronze medalist Jenna Ward and junior prodigy Kyeta Purchase, with Hartley’s awesome sprint power, being fine tuned for the Rio Olympics, prevailing in the closing fifty meters.

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Olympic medallist Bridgitte Hartley (left) and Abby Solms won the senior women’s K2 title. PIC: John Hishin/Cape Town Sport Photography

In the junior races, former world champ jean van der Westhuyzen teamed up with Cape star Mark Keeling to post an emphatic gold-medal winning performance over the game paring of Ulvard Hart and Zach Preyser, while the well drilled crew of Sabina Lawrie and Christie Mackenzie were never challenged in romping to the junior laurels.

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Jean Van Der Westhuyzen and Mark Keeling won the Boys U18 Title convincingly. PIC: John Hishin/Cape Town Sport Photography

SUMMARY OF RESULTS:

K1

Senior Men
1.Hank McGregor 2:14:17
2.Andy Birkett 2;14:17
3.Brandon van der Walt 2;14:19

Senior Women
1.Nikki Russell 2:08:41
2.Bianca Beavitt 2:08:56
3.Jane Swarbreck 2:21:14

Under 23 Men
1.Louis Hattingh 1:56:03
2.Nick Notten 1:58:41
3.Kenny Rice 1:58:59

Under 23 Women
1.Jenna Ward
2.Melanie van Niekerk
3.Kerry Segal

Under 18 Boys
1.Jean van der Westhuyzen 1:36:34
2.Mark Keeling 1:38:19
3.Bailey de Fondamiere 1:43:29

Under 18 Girls
1.Kyeta Purchase 1:30:12
2.Christie McKenzie 1:32:49
3.Sabina Lawrie 1:33:23

K2

Senior Men
1.Andy Birkett/Louis Hattingh 2:00:26
2.Brandon vd Walt/Stu McLaren 2:00:28
3.Hank McGregor/Siseko Ntondini 2:01:28

Senior Women
1.Bridgitte Hartley/Abby Solms 1:54:02
2.Jenna Ward/Kyeta Purchase 1:54:19 (U23)
3.Bianca Beavitt/Jane Swarbreck 2:01:46

Under 23 Men
1.Kenny Rice/Thomas Lovemore 2:11:08
2.Anders Hart/Tyron Maher 2:16:00
3.Marco Marsh/Donovan Vermeulen 2:24:14

Under 18 Boys
1.Jean van der Westhuyzen/Mark Keeling 1:32:38
2.Zachary Preyser/Ulvard Hart 1:32:57
3.Bailey de Fondamiere/Alex Masina 1:34:09

Under 18 Girls
1.Sabina Lawrie/Christie Mackenzie 1:25:07
2.Jessica Croudace/Katie Croudace 1:34:02
3.Rebecca Meihuizen/Jackie vd Westhuysen 1:35:09

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