Tom Lovemore wins, but Robbie Herreveld rolls back the clock at Berg River Marathon

Tom Lovemore just outsprints 52-year-old Robbie Herreveld at the finish of the opening day of the 2024 Berg River Canoe Marathon. Picture: John Hishin / Gameplan Media

Tom Lovemore just outsprints 52-year-old Robbie Herreveld at the finish of the opening day of the 2024 Berg River Canoe Marathon. Picture: John Hishin / Gameplan Media

Published Jul 3, 2024


The opening day of the Berg River Canoe Marathon on Wednesday set up a remarkable battle between six-time winner Robbie Herreveld and Tom Lovemore, one of the country's exciting young prospects aiming for his biggest canoeing victory.

Lovemore won the 62km opening stage from Paarl to Zonquasdrift, but it was a lot more difficult than the Eastern Cape resident expected. The 26-year-old looked set for an easy paddle home when his nearest rivals had all dropped off the pace with nine kilometres to go.

However, the stage ended in a tight battle for honours when Herreveld, at 52 and almost exactly twice Lovemore's age, cruised powerfully back into contention and reminded spectators why he was unbeaten between 1991 and 1996.

In contrast, in the women's race, Stephanie Von der Heyde was able to enjoy the closing kilometres after the 18-year-old Neriyah Dill faded away following a strong first half of the day. Von der Heyde takes a huge 11-minute gap into Stage Two on Thursday, with Tayla Isaac third a further 17 minutes off the leader.

"I don't think it has set in yet," said Lovemopre as he contemplated his day out on the river. "It was an interesting race out there today. What normally happens with the Berg is that you have a big bunch of guys for the first few hours before the race really kicks off.

"Today there were a few guys in the race who have quite a bit of speed, so I thought we don't really want to wait to that point, and I thought: "Let's get it started quite early."

"So right from the first portage we put the pressure on and actually got away with a group of three. I thought then that if we can all work together that will be amazing. Clint (Cook) is really fast and Siseko (Ntondini) is also a super-strong paddler, and I thought with the three of us working together it was going to be a great day.

"But at about 30km, Clint took a little bit of a slower channel and he came out a few metres behind us. I don't know what happened, but he didn't seem to want to chase the bunch after that.

"So then it was myself and Siseko. He put in a mammoth effort and was really digging deep and sharing the pulls, so I was just so grateful to have someone to work with.

"We made a big mistake at Grensplaas and we could see the bunch really closed the gap, but with Siseko we managed to hang onto the lead and then actually opened it up again, which was a relief. He almost made it all the way to the end, but with about 9km from the finish I think he just had enough and the paddles went down.

"I then thought that I was going to be alone from there to the finish – and there came Robbie. I was feeling really good and pushing so hard that I thought: "There's absolutely no ways anyone can close this gap."

"Then I looked back and Robbie was 700 metres, and then the next corner it was 600, and then 500, and there was nothing I could do. I was going as hard as I could and there he came with a smile on his face – I suppose it was something pretty special to witness, I just wish it wasn't to me."

However, Lovemore is not too sorry to have Herreveld at his side when they set off on Stage Two on Thursday, through the tree blocks and channels that litter the stretch from Zonquasdrift to Gouda.

"By ending with Robbie, I cannot ask for much more going into the trees tomorrow. I think there are two guys that are going to be dangerous tomorrow with their local knowledge and their skills through the trees, and that's Robbie and Heinrich Schloms, so to have one of them with me and a nice gap behind us to the rest is sort of a dream come true.

"I think also that Robbie is a clean racer. We actually were able to race tomorrow's stretch against each other two weeks ago, so it feels a little bit like deja vu getting back there again.

"He's 50, but you wouldn't think so. I was really feeling as good as I could feel today and I think my nutrition was great, I wasn't cramping and I just thought this is amazing. And there he came with his big blades and his long stroke and just pulled it back. It was really impressive – I wouldn't have liked to race him in his peak."

Ntondini dropped to fourth overall as Dusi runner up Msawenkosi Mtolo finished strongly to claim third, while Paarl local Heinrich Schloms is fifth.

Irish international paddler David Horkan ended 12th overall.



1 Thomas Lovemore 4:55:10.78

2 Robert Herreveld 4:55:11.15

3 Msawenkosi Mtolo 4:58:11.37

4 Siseko Ntondini 5:01:04.37

5 Henrich Schloms 5:05:01.24


1 Stephanie Von der Heyde 5:50:39.62

2 Neriyah Dill 6:02:03.04

3 Tayla Isaac 6:19:52.98

4 Ansune Basson 6:23:30.85

5 Dominique Desmeules 6:45:31.77

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