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The ICF Masters Canoe Marathon World Championships kicked off in Vejen, Denmark on Monday morning with our first race of interest being the 65 – 69 K1’s. Chris Visser beat Colin Simpkins in a close race for the Bronze medal, behind Spain and Norway. In the Mens 45 – 49 K1’s Ernst van Riet claimed a strong 5th. The next day Copper and Chris teamed-up for the 65 – 69 K2’s, where they comfortably claimed Gold. Also on Tuesday were the 50 – 54 K2’s where Matt and Piet won the Silver medal. They were upgraded from third, and then it appeared that they went celebrating as they weren’t around for the medal ceremony. Fortunately, the commentators, local legend Dave Macleod and multiple marathon world champ from back in the 1990’s Ivan Lawler, had them found so they could do the podium thing. While Dave and Ivan’s commentary and the live stream of the racing was great, (plus there were eye-catching viewer comments like: ‘Astounding to see Copper pull for so long, normally it’s just a token gesture’); it was disappointing that the camera man forgot to show us the award ceremony, and the Fresh Earth team were sad they didn’t get to see their man getting his medal.

 

After the ou-toppies it was the turn of the junior girls in their K1’s on Thursday. Well done to Georgia Singe from Fish Hoek who was 6th and Holly Smith from Camps Bay who was 10th. Then it was the heats for the men’s short course, where both Clint and Uli qualified comfortably for the final which was on at the same time as our club time trial. Our chairlady made a fine decision to shorten the Spring TT to just 5 laps so that we could gather in the clubhouse, livestream the event and cheer the boys on. Our chief administrator (aka club secretary) became a did some fancy decorating and made everything very colourful, while Dumi loaded his fridges with more beer than normal. And then there was no live steam, so no one got to see the race, but that didn’t spoil the festivities. (Sorry Clint.) The Spring thing started with a Gin Storm, and the Gin with infused with Scatter Berries. Apparently, Bryan was rechristened that evening as Scatter Berry. And apparently Belkie challenged Caren (the chief administrator) to a 3 (reduced to 1) lap swim. We will publish the date of this dual, it will most likely be followed by another Gin Storm, so possibly when the Enduro happens. Cayden and Asher won the prize for the best dressed juniors, Karen and Sarah for the best dressed ladies and Ryan for the best dressed male. He was however dressed by his paddling partner, E3. Nkosi looked really good, but he had pillaged the chief administrator’s décor and was disqualified. Ryno, Flem Pup and Flem Dog won the prize for the best dressed boat; but they were the only boat that was dressed up. And then, with spring on its way, the Dabs Derekane Winter Time Trial Series came to an end. Well done to the hardcore Tex who did the most (13) and to 45 others who did 8 or more winter TT’s and scored a nice hooded towel, so now we don’t have to see their bits and pieces when they get changed. Thank you to KZN Resins and Steve Beal for this fantastic sponsorship. In the end we learnt that Fernando Pimenta just pipped local hero Mads Pettersen to win in 14 mins and 14 seconds. Clint was 11th and also went sub 15mins, just 40 seconds behind, showing how tight the racing is at this level. Uli, who many thought would medal, ended up 19th. Interestingly, in the woman’s short course where most expected Vanda Kiszli to win, she was pipped at the end by a young Swede.

On Friday morning the junior girls of Georgia and Holly lined up for the U18 K2 race in boat so pink, Barbie would be proud to paddle. Theirs was not the best of starts, but they ground their way up and into the leading bunch of 7 boats and then they stayed there. At the final portage any one of Spain, Hungary, SA or GB could have won, but our girls ran incredibly well and put in like real pros to take a 3-boat length lead which they held and turned in South Africa’s first ever U18 K2 Girls Gold Medal. Well done World Champions, brilliant racing, it was really exciting to watch!

Then it was the turn of the K1 U23 women. Jade and Saskia both started well and before long were in the front bunch of 6 boats. This changed after the first portage with Saskia breaking away with two others, while Jade was in the chasing group of 3. The front bunch stayed together and steadily stretched their lead making themselves all certain medalists, but by the final portage takeout it was clear that Hungary would take Gold, Czech Silver, and Saskia Bronze. Another medal for team SA, well done Saskia, and Jade who ended up 15th overall. This was Saskia’s first year in the U23’s, so her future looks bright.

They were followed by the K1 U23 men where we had Matt Fenn in a bold green boat. Initially there was a 12man bunch. Knudsen of Denmark showed his strength on the portages and put ins, and soon strung the group out. By lap 3 there were 9 boats, and from there on the Dane remained in charge and up front, while for the rest of the big bunch there was a lot of hussle for his side wave and to get a good take out for the final portage, by which stage it was down to a 4man race with Matt in the mix. The Dane dominated until the home straight and Matt was stuck on the diamond. Then the Irishman turned on the afterburners to claim Gold, Denmark had to settle for Silver and Portugal took Bronze, leaving Fenn in fourth. Well done Matty, no medal, but what an awesome effort.

Saturday’s racing started with the K1 junior men, and based on how well he was going up against our best seniors at Dabs, many of us were expecting young Luke to medal. Unfortunately he took a swim at the top turn of lap 2 and ended up as a DNF. Sorry chap, such is racing, but as someone said in the socials, it meant he would be fresher for the K2 race.

In the K1 senior women we had Christie and Nicole Birkett representing SA. Initially they were both in the big front bunch of 10 boats led by Vanda Kiszli. On the third lap Christie and Nix were dropped to the second bunch but after the portage Christie was back in medal contention, at least for Silver or Bronze, because Kiszli was then in a class of her own, well ahead of the chasing bunch of 4. On the third or fourth portage the Swede (who beat Kiszli on the ladies short course) took off, Christie was right behind her but didn’t have a good put in and with that there was going to be scrap for Bronze between Christie, the Czech and the Spaniard. With a lap to go, there was just two in the fight for Bronze, and on the final portage Christie’s running made the difference; she asserted a 20meter lead after the put-in and it was clear she was never going to relinquish the Bronze. Big up to our commentator Dave who predicted that SA would beat Czech and Spain, saying that Christie is real scrapper and for talking up her Dusi credentials. Well done CJ, and Nicole who was 8th, we hope they asked the incredible Kiszli what she has for breakfast.

 

Then it was the senior men’s K1, with so many big names the commentators were saying it was impossible to call who would take the win. Pedersen led the race at the start, but in the first lap we saw Andy Birkett, Hamish Lovemore, Foley, Alonso and Ramalho all take turns in pulling a massive group of 11 contenders. Alonso sprinted the first portage followed by Pedersen and Ramalho, and for a while it looked like these 3 would break away, but Andy chased hard, and then there was a front bunch of 6 which then became 10 when Hamish and others fought their way back onto the bunch. Pedersen put in a huge surge for the next portage, ran incredibly well and then did what Kiszli did; he went off on his own; with 16km to go. Andy, Ramahlo and Vold seemed to settle for the battle for Silver and Bronze, although it looked like the chasing group of Alonso and co might catch them. At the final portage it was still a 3man race for 2nd and 3rd.. Vold led for the first 900m of the last km, then Andy opened up to win Silver, but the race was owned by Pedersen, reveling in his home-town. Hamish, last year’s U23 champ had a good race too and finished 5th.

In the K2 junior men, for SA we had our Dabs boys Luke and Bruno along with Jared Shrimpton and Ryley Smith. The race started with lots of argy bargy and fighting for space which resulted in 4 crews swimming in the first 15 minutes. Our boys were the victims of some bad driving many times, but they kept their heads and stayed in contention, although it was clear that the Argentina crew were dominant in a bunch of 8 boats. The medals were decided at the final portage when the Argentineans splintered the group on the run and were well clear for the last short lap, followed by Hungary and Spain, with Luke and Bruno coming 4th – well done guys! Their rented Nelo was so badly dinged and dented, it looked like it had done the Dusi. Well done also to Jared and Ryley who ended up 11th, fantastic for a crew who are still U15, meaning they still have 3 bites at this U18 title.

Where the U18 boys’ race was a proper bun fight, the senior ladies’ race was almost tame, and in their words, almost slow despite there being a big bunch of 8 including Saskia with Michelle and Nicole with Jade. Kiszli and her partner were expected to win, which they duly did although not with the lead she enjoyed in the K1 race. Nix and Jade had a poor takeout on the last portage but ran well to stay in contention; they started the final short lap on the diamond, then moved wide for the end sprint and couldn’t get over the wave for a medal, but they were full value for their fighting fourth. Saskia and Michelle ended up 8th.

For the final event, the senior men’s we had Hamish and Clint, along with Wayne and Brad competing. After the first lap there was a big bunch of 12 with Hamish and Clint up at the front and boxing with all the main contenders, while Wayne and Brad were further back, but in the front bunch. Denmark swam at the first portage and our boys dropped off the front bunch of 4 but then ground their way back up to make a front bunch of 7, and so the ding-dong battles continued as they all tried to wear each other down, and after a while it became apparent our guys were fighting to stay up front as opposed to fighting for the win. In the end Portugal won ahead of France and Norway, their boat speed was 18.3km when they dropped a gear to make sure no one could get over their wave for the final sprint. Wayne and Brad were stoked just to be there and ended up with 12th and we guess that Hamish and Clint were disappointed with 15th. But wow, what a week of racing, those that followed it were properly entertained, so well done and thanks to all who competed, for putting your hearts and souls out there and making us proud – and thanks to all who shared the coverage.

The weather is warming up, our river season is starting, Liebensberg and Fish are getting closer and closer, phone a friend, make a plan, commit and enter now!