Hank McGregor and Jasper Mocke charged back to the top of the world by claiming victory in Sunday’s K2 Men’s encounter, bringing a golden curtain down on the 2016 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Brandenburg, Germany after three frenetic days of racing.
While McGregor and Mocke surged to victory, compatriots Louis Hattingh and Andy Birkett raced to a hard-fought third place while fast emerging young female talents Jenna Ward and Kyeta Purchase claimed the silver medal in the K2 women’s event.
McGregor and Mocke’s feat, together with that of Hattingh and Birkett, capped off a memorable weekend of racing for Team South Africa’s senior men after Saturday’s action saw McGregor and Birkett clinch a historic South African one-two in the K1 encounter.
‘I managed to pull off the K1 and K2 double in Oklahoma two years ago and again here today so I’m very happy,’ said Euro Steel/Kayak Centre’s McGregor.
‘I thoroughly enjoyed myself out there and it was an honour representing my country and my sponsors,’ he added.
Having won in America in 2014 before being pipped to the post by Adrian Boros and Laszlo Solti last year, McGregor and Mocke showed their class by turning the tides on the Hungarian pair this time around and, in the process, McGregor claimed a remarkable eighth world crown.
‘I was only as strong as my partner today, it was a real team effort,’ said McGregor. ‘To win the title is fantastic, to get it back after missing out last year is even better!’
‘It’s an awesome feeling to get the title back and having the whole crew here with me makes it so much more meaningful,’ added Euro Steel/Mocke Paddling’s Mocke.
The race ebbed and flowed throughout as the dynamics of an unusually large lead group tested all competitors’ tactics and kept everyone on the edge of their seat – none more so than McGregor and Mocke after the latter suffered an illness in the build up to the race.
‘Jasper hadn’t been feeling well all week so it was 50/50 as to whether we were even going to race or not,’ explained McGregor. ‘We had a fantastic race though where we managed to conserve as much energy as possible, Jasper was strong when he needed to be and we’re world champions again so we’re really happy!
‘Tactically we raced a good race; there were 8-10 boats on the front bunch at any one time but we never over-extended ourselves as Hank did really well, surfing us from wave to wave and keeping us well positioned throughout,’ said Mocke. ‘I knew I only had one 500m sprint in me and I wanted that to be from the last turn to the finish, which is exactly what happened.’
It wasn’t any more straightforward for Hattingh and Birkett as a series of mistakes, including a costly navigational error around a turn buoy midway through the race forced them to work far harder than they would have liked to get back into medal contention.
‘We were on the inside coming into buoys at the top turn and with the wind coming from the opposite side, all the water from the other guys’ strokes went straight into my face and half blinded me,’ explained Hattingh. ‘The next thing I saw was that we were heading straight for the buoy, we pegged it and unfortunately bounced the wrong way so we had to back paddle, come back around it and then try catch up.
‘We missed a buoy at the top turn, which is easy to with all the wind and the chop on the water,’ added Birkett. ‘Slowly we caught back over the next two laps though and I’m super stoked with the outcome as I really didn’t think that we were going to get a podium today.’
The K2 senior women’s encounter saw the young South African pair of Jenna Ward and Kyeta Purchase replicate the feat of Alexa Cole and Donia Kamstra in Australia in 2005 as they fought bravely to cling to the tail of marathon racing legend Renata Csay and her Hungarian partner, Alexandra Bara.
Having left the rest of the field in their wake, Ward and Purchase (pictured above) went head to head with their more fancied rivals with only an end-sprint separating the two crews.
‘That was the best race of our lives,’ exuded Euro Steel’s Ward. ‘Racing with Renata – our role model – was an absolute honour and it was just the most amazing thing we’ve ever done!
‘It was amazing to race against Renata, she was so strong the whole way and I just kept saying to Jen ‘Come on, let’s hang in there’ and luckily we were able to just keep grinding and made sure the girls behind us weren’t able to catch us!’ added Euro Steel/Mocke Paddling’s thrilled Purchase.
Earlier in the day Team South Africa’s K2 Junior Boys crew of Jean van der Westhuyzen and Mark Keeling claimed a top five finish while their compatriots Zachery Preyser and Ulvard Hart finished in 15th place.
While finishing outside the medal, the youngsters efforts all added to Team South Africa’s men’s charge that – led by the likes of McGregor and Birkett – saw them claim the Championships’ Kayak trophy for a second year running.
Source: South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee.