Hank McGregor and Andy Birkett win the end sprint with Stu MacLaren and Kenny Rice to claim the men's K2 gold at the recent SA Marathon Champs. Photo: Sandy Coffey, Gameplan Media

DURBAN – With Hank McGregor retired from the K1 canoe scene, there has been a number of changes in the South African team for the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Prado Vila, Portugal, from September 6 to 9.

Most significantly Jasper Mocké will join Andy Birkett as the men's K1 representatives.

The team was announced following the successful SA Canoe Marathon Championships this past weekend in St Francis Bay.

The national championships took on a new, exciting form as paddlers had to deal with tides, flowing water and weather throughout the weekend’s action but ultimately the intense action led to a very strong team being assembled for the global showpiece.

The ladies K1 paddlers set for Portugal are Bridgitte Hartley and Jenna Ward. The pair fought it out  for the national title with Hartley sneaking home in the end. 

With Ward’s impressive age group credentials she will hope to emulate Saturday’s feat in St Francis at senior level.

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The 2017 Under-23 world champion silver medallist Nick Notten leads the charge again in the age group medal bid and he will be joined in the men’s Under-23 race by Louis Hattingh, who is a K2 medallist and will be looking to add a K1 medal to his collection.

Sabina Lawrie and Christie Mackenzie will be the two paddlers entrusted with flying the South African flag in the women’s Under-23 K1 race. 

Lawrie beat Mackenzie at the national championships recently and both are newbies in the Under-23 age ranks so Portugal will provide a strong learning platform.

Mackenzie has tasted success on the international stage when she won bronze in the junior girls K1 race in Pietermaritzburg in 2017.

In the junior K1 ranks Capetonian Uli Hart and Maritzburg schoolboy David Evans will lead the junior boys charge while Caitlin Mackenzie and Amy Peckett will be the two K1’s in the junior girls showdown.

The doubles craft will see the exciting combination of Birkett and marathon legend Hank McGregor lead the men’s K2 challenge where they will be joined on the startline by Stuart Maclaren and Kenny Rice.

The women’s K2 combinations are Bridgitte Hartley and Melissa van Rooyen and the pairing of Hayley Nixon and Christie Mackenzie. Three of the four paddlers were on duty in the K2 event in Pietermaritzburg last year with Van Rooyen the only new addition.

Mackenzie teamed up with Hartley last year while Nixon paired with Michelle Burn, so there has been a shake-up in the combinations.

There is no Under-23 K2 category so the focus then shifts to the juniors with 2017 Under-18 K2 silver medallists Hamish Mackenzie and David Evans looking to emulate or better their performance last year.

Uli Hart and Matthew Fenn will be the other junior boys K2 on the water.

In the junior girls division, Caitlin Mackenzie and Zara Wood will pair up for the international showpiece while Mackenzie’s 2017 partner Amy Peckett will team up with Cayleigh Shaw for the doubles dice.

The 2018 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships begins with the Masters Cup from September 3 to 5 and is followed by the World Championships from September 4 to 9.

The full South African team is:

Andy Birkett (Senior Men K1 & K2), Jasper Mocké (Senior Men K1), Bridgitte Hartley (Senior Women K1 & K2), Jenna Ward (Senior Women K1), Hank McGregor (Senior Men K2), Hayley Nixon (Senior Women K2), Christie Mackenzie (Under-23 Women K1 & Snr Women K2), Sabina Lawrie (Under-23 Women K1), Melissa van Rooyen (Senior Women K2), Stuart Maclaren (Senior Men K2), Kenny Rice (Senior Men K2), Nick Notten (Under-23 Men K1), Louis Hattingh (Under-23 Men K1), Uli Hart (Junior Boys K1 & K2), Matthew Fenn (Junior 18 Boys K2), Amy Peckett (Junior Girls K1 & K2), Cayleigh Shaw (Junior Girls K2), David Evans (Junior Boys K1 & K2), Hamish Mackenzie (Junior Boys K2), Caitlin Mackenzie (Junior Girls K1 & K2), Zara Wood (Junior Girls K2). 

African News Agency (ANA)

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