KZN paddling stars in top form for world championships

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Hank McGregor showed his impressive form ahead of the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships.

KwaZulu-Natal paddling stars Hank McGregor and Christie Mackenzie have shown their impressive form ahead of the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships.

They won the SA K1 River Championship titles at the Standard Bank Liebenbergsvlei Canoe Marathon this weekend.

“I always enjoy the unknown of racing on a river blind and it was an exciting race over both days as there was a strong group of paddlers hoping to win the title.”

Hank McGregor

With just weeks to go before the country’s top flatwater marathon paddlers fly to Romania for the World Championships, Euro Steel’s McGregor and Varsity College/Euro Steel’s Mackenzie proved that ‘they were in good shape before their trip to Europe.

The national title brought McGregor closer to that magic number 10 for the K1 national river titles, but it was an exciting race for the veteran on a river he had never raced on before.

“It’s still a fun and exciting race on water that you’ve never paddled on before,” he said. “I always love the unknown of racing on a river blind and the racing was exciting for both days because there was a good group of paddlers hoping to win the title. I’m really happy to get the win especially since I’m quite tired but it was a good race and it was good training for Romania.

“Then winning the K2 race with my wife Pippa on Sunday was another highlight for us!”

McGregor had the difficult task of fending off the Gauteng duo of Clinton Cook and Wayne Jacobs as well as dealing with youngster Sam Butcher and the likes of Msawenkosi Mtolo, Thulani Mbanjwa and fellow Gauteng Under-23 paddler Liam Stewart.

In the end, McGregor’s experience saw him win the gold medal ahead of Cook by just under two minutes while Jacobs sewed up the bronze medal.

Christie Mackenzie paddling.

Christie Mackenzie is working hard for her win.

Hard fight for Mackenzie

In the women’s race, Mackenzie had a tough fight against fellow marathon star Jenna Nisbet and the two battled it out to the line.

In the end, it was Mackenzie, now based in Johannesburg, who took the win just over ten seconds behind Nisbet.

READ ALSO | Mackenzie feels strong after the drama of Dusi’s injury.

Under-16 star Valmajean Hockly won the bronze medal and with it the Girls Under-18 crown.

The men’s under-23 gold medal went to Sam Butcher ahead of Liam Stewart in second and Mpilo Zondi in third while Sandile Mbanjwa was the first boy under-18 to cross the line.

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