Paarl – As the deadline for normal entries approached, a number of big names have surfaced in the entries for the Berg River Canoe Marathon from 12 to 15 July, adding spice to what is turning out to be a highly unusual Berg.
The character of the race is being dictated by the severe drought that has the Western Cape in a stranglehold, and last week the organisers issued a cautionary statement suggesting that low water, hyacinth and tree blocks might force a change to race route.
Understandably, paddlers have been reluctant to commit to taking part in the 240km epic from Paarl to Velddrif, but by the time normal entries closed there were 67 paddlers entered for the race.
The race organisers extended the normal entry deadline by a week to accommodate this trepidation, and once medium term weather forecasts become reliable, many paddlers are expected to lodge late entries.
One entry confirmed is that of the women's double defending champion Bianca Beavitt.
The Pink Lady/Century City stalwart has been training hard for the defence of her crown, and was in good form when she won the women's SA K1 River Marathon crown at the recent Pink Lady Drakenstein marathon, which covers much of the first third of the race.
Also on the list of confirmed entries is the icon Jannie Malherbe. At 76 he is the oldest paddler in the field and it targeting his 45th Berg medal.
Malherbe was one of the paddlers that took part in the first ever Berg River Canoe Marathon in 1962 and enjoys a privileged place in the Legends batch, alongside Giel van Deventer, who is aiming for his 48th Berg medal.
Talented Under 23 paddler Tom Lovemore has also entered. He won the Under 23 category race in a needle dice with Tyron Maher, finishing in 13th overall. With a solid winter training base, much of it surfski paddling in Durban, the Varsity College youngster will be eyeing a top ten finish.
The elite entry is presently tilted heavily in the favour of the two confirmed international paddlers Adrián Boros and Petr Mojžíšek, and with rumours of another big name to be added to the international entry in the coming week, the podium race could have a decidedly European flavour.
Normal entries will be taken until 10pm on Wednesday 5 July, but paddlers entering on the extension will not get a race t-shirt with their entry.
The Berg River Canoe marathon starts in Paarl on 12 July and ends at Velddrif on 15 July. More information can be found at www.berg.org.za