Paddle champs on song

Mkhululi Ndamase

HANK McGregor and Grant van der Walt continued their dominance of the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon – claiming their fourth consecutive K2 title at the weekend in Cradock.

McGregor made history and has become the first paddler to win five titles in a row, the first of which was with Len Jenkins.

The Durban pair dominated the race on both Friday and Saturday. They capitalised on their first-day lead of more than four minutes to comfortably power home in a time of four hours, 48 minutes and 7.18 seconds.

Second-placed Jenkins and Greg Louw fought off Tobias Bong of Germany and Czech Republic’s Tomas Slovak to finish in 4:52:00.

Bong and Slovak, who finished fifth on day one, looked set to claim second spot as they were flying until they got to Cradock Weir, where they struggled, allowing Jenkins and Louw to open up a gap. But they recovered well and comfortably ended third in 4:54:02.43

McGregor said: “We managed to keep our consistency throughout the race. I am very happy about winning my fifth title. It’s another in the bag.”

Van der Walt said they had had a super race and enjoyed it from start to finish.

Louw and the “Fisher King”, as Jenkins is known, finished with the best time of the second day (2:00:26.53). The ever-smiling Louw said it felt good to be cheered on by farmers along the way. “We kept our pace and caught up to second place. At Cradock Weir, we came over with no problem … we’re very happy about having the fastest time of the day,” he said.

Slovak and Bong had the second- fastest time of day two (2:01:06.85) and were the first internationals to finish.

“We worked really well with Greg and Len but we were unlucky at Cradock Weir when our boat cracked and we had water in it. But we’re very happy to come third and be the first internationals,” Slovak said.

Abby Adie and her Czech Republic co-paddler, Anna Adamova, claimed first spot in the women’s race with a time of 5:17:09.44, after finishing more than two minutes ahead of second-placed Robyn Kime and Bridgette Hartley on Friday.

“We had a flawless race. We had a nice and comfortable lead and didn’t have to take any chances at Cradock Weir. This is the best present ever,” said Adie, who turned 24 on Saturday.

Olympic bronze medallist Hartley said: “There was no easy part from day one, but we really enjoyed it.”

Jenna Ward and Kerry Segal, who finished fourth on day one, a few seconds behind Danica Bartho and Michelle Burn, claimed the last podium position (5:38:45.69).

In both the men’s and women’s races, the winners walked away with R30000 and floating trophies.

The runners-up received R24000, while third place took R18000.

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