New world champion Jasper Mocké has thrown the cat amongst the pigeons with an 11th-hour Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon entry, taking the number of recently crowned marathon world champions set to take part in this weekend’s Eastern Cape spectacle to four.
Mocké joins fellow senior men’s K2 victor Hank McGregor – who famously became the first South African to win both the senior men’s K1 and K2 titles at the same ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Oklahoma City, USA less than two weeks ago – as well as under-18 World Champs Louis Hattingh and Jean van der Westhuyzen.
‘I had said there was absolutely no ways I was going to be at the Fish this year but while watching my brother packing the car and hearing everyone talking about going to Cradock, I just had the worst case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) ever and decided I had to go!’ described the Mocké Paddling athlete just hours before his lift departed Cape Town.
‘Being a World Champion might change things a little in other people’s minds but not necessarily for me. It doesn’t make me any more or less capable, I always know I can compete but it is nice having that extra confidence coming off a victory, especially one at an event like a World Champs,’ he added.
The South African national marathon team did the country proud at this year’s global showcase with the men’s efforts seeing the team become the first non-European nation to win the men’s kayak team award at a Marathon World Champs.
For five-time World Champ McGregor, this year’s Hansa Fish is a golden opportunity to compete for that illusive maiden K1 win at the event to add to his five K2 titles.
‘You are only as good as your last race, so I am fully focused on the Fish!’ an enthusiastic McGregor said just a day after arriving back in South Africa. ‘I got straight off the plane and into my river boat and I am super excited!
‘Normally when we get to the finish there is hardly anyone there but with the new reverse order start set to see most paddlers finish ahead of us, I think there will be a fantastic atmosphere and a great vibe at the finish in Cradock at the end of the final stage on Saturday.
‘I think quite a few people will also go back to Cradock Weir to see the top guys shooting the weir so I’m really looking forward to getting down to the Fish and enjoying two great days of racing!’
Four-time Dusi winner and former Under-23 Marathon World Champ Andy Birkett (EuroSteel) will however hope his recent inclusion of marathon paddling into his winter calendar will hold him in good stead to go head to head with McGregor as well.
‘I’ve never done well at the Fish before because up until last year I’ve never really been a winter paddler and so my paddling has been really weak by the time Fish came around each year.
‘I think this has changed a bit now with me racing marathon in the winter and so it would be really cool if I could be in the mix at Fish this year. ’If I can get a top five I’ll be very happy and if my some miracle I can sneak onto the podium I’ll be very stoked!’ said a conservative Birkett. Birkett’s Marathon World Champs senior men’s K2 partner and Eastern Cape local Greg Louw is another predicted to feature strongly in the men’s title clash in Cradock this year.
Louw’s best result previously is a third place and the local star is eager to produce another strong showing in 2014.
Grant van der Walt (Team Jeep/Varsity College), whom McGregor has won the past four Hansa Fish K2 titles with, opted out of this year’s Marathon World Champs however his younger brother Brandon (Kayak Racing) did not and he, together with fellow Under-23 Worlds competitor Stu MacLaren, will also be eyeing a highly sought-after top five finish.
In the women’s race, South African river marathon star Abby Adie (Best 4 Healthcare/Kayak Centre) partnered Laura O’Donoghue to sixth place in the senior women’s K2 clash at Worlds and returns to South Africa eager to clinch her first Hansa Fish K1 crown.
‘I am really fit at the moment and I really just hope that I can put together a good race this year because it is a race that I really want to win!’ a determined Adie mentioned.
London Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley was the lone South African figure in the senior women’s K1 clash at Worlds however despite having clinched the mixed K3 record in 2012, the sprint sensation has opted not take part in this year’s Fish.
However Michelé Eray, someone who battled it out alongside Hartley in the US, will be on the start line in the women’s clash and the former Plettenberg Bay resident, now residing in Oklahoma City, is looking forward to trying to defend the title she clinched famously in 2012.
Jenna Ward claimed a career defining third place in the Under-23 women’s World Champs tussle and the determined young star will be hoping to replicate, if not improve on, her podium efforts at this year’s Fish.
Picture: John Hishin/Gameplan Media