Paddler powers to seventh title ahead of Birkett, Louw
Hank McGregor clinched a seventh Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon K1 title in Cradock at the weekend, as he sprinted to the finish to defend his crown against Andy Birkett.
The event started on Friday at the Grassridge Dam and finished at the Cradock Sport Grounds on Saturday.
Day one saw McGregor take the lead in a nail-biting finish after he and Birkett were neck-on-neck, before paddling towards the finish line at the Knutsford Dam.
The eight-time canoe marathon world champion held on tightly to his lead on day two.
“To have seven titles in the bag now is fantastic,” McGregor said.
“This is one of the best races in the country. It’s great to come out on top.”
“It’s pretty hard coming out of a world championship title having to refocus and motivate yourself. I am really happy to win it.
“In the beginning, we tested each other just a little bit, just to get warmed up a bit.
“It was pretty much taking it easy, conservative until we got to Gauging Weir.
“We actually leaked quite a lot of time on Greg Louw, but it was understandable because nobody wants to do any extra work,” McGregor said.
“It was just pushing the last 12 minutes.
“Everybody thinks it’s over from Cradock Weir but it’s still quite a long way to go.
“At the end, it was really a great sprint for the finish but I am very happy to have come up on top.”
Birkett, who finished second just 19 seconds behind McGregor, said he was happy with how the race had ended.
“I tried to get past him [McGregor] for the last three kilometres, but he was just too strong and hung on to the lead,” Birkett said.
“I am happy with my finish. It’s been a long season and this is the last race of the season.
“To come to the Fish and have a little bit of a holiday as well, I am happy to be on the podium.”
Cradock canoeist Greg Louw, who won the K2 with Birkett last year, said there was nothing to be ashamed of in finishing behind the world’s No 1 and No 2 canoe champions.
In the women’s category, Abby Solms secured an easy victory.
“I didn’t expect to come out in such a big lead. I could not have asked for a better two days,” Solms said.
“I am very happy that I was able to defend my title.
“I mean, this is one of my favourite races, so to come out again on top and secure my fifth win, I am delighted.”