Andy Birkett and Louis Hattingh won a thrilling senior men’s K2 race to bring down the curtain at the Prescient SA Marathon Championships at Zandvlei near Muizenberg on Sunday, while Olympic medallist Bridgitte Hartley and teammate Abby Solms took the women’s title in an equally thrilling race.
Birkett and Hattingh were locked in a tense four-boat race throughout the 29km race, held in ideal clam conditions in sharp contrast to the gale force winds that dominated the first day’s racing, with locals Brandon van der Walt and Stu McLaren, Simon van Gysen and Czech Republic star Jakub Adam and world champ Hank McGregor, who raced with Soweto talent Siseko Ntondini after his regular team mate Jasper Mocké was sidelined by flu.
After a dramatic penultimate portage, McGregor and Ntondini were dropped off the front bunch with Van Gysen and Adam, leaving two K2 crews to slug it out over the last two kilometres.
Birkett, a former Under-23 world champ and Hattingh, who won the junior world title in 2014, timed their interval to the line perfectly to hold off Van Der Walt and McLaren by less than a boat length.
‘It feels fantastic to win it, especially after such as close race,’ said Birkett. ‘I can’t wait to race with Louis (Hattingh) at the world champs in Germany in September.’
‘He is very calm in the race and aggressive when he has to be,’ he added. ‘He is racing with maturity and experience beyond his years.’
There was a great deal riding on the race after the confirmation that Mocké would not be racing, and there was a written motivation for exemption to the national selectors to allow the EuroSteel pairing of himself and McGregor, winners of gold and silver at the last two world championships, to be considered for the national team.
The K2 silver and K1 bronze signalled the return to top form of Brandon van der Walt, following on from his successes as a junior and Under-23 marathoner.
The women’s title was decided in almost carbon-copy like fashion as Hartley and Solms (pictured here) turned into the finish straight with double Under-23 bronze medallist Jenna Ward and junior prodigy Kyeta Purchase, with Hartley’s awesome sprint power, being fine-tuned for the Rio Olympics, prevailing in the closing 50 metres.
In the junior races, former world champ Jean van der Westhuyzen teamed up with Cape star Mark Keeling to post an emphatic gold-medal winning performance over the game pairing of Ulvard Hart and Zach Preyser, while the well drilled crew of Sabina Lawrie and Christie Mackenzie were never challenged in romping to the junior laurels.
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
PRESCIENT SA MARATHON CHAMPS K2 RACES
1 Andy Birkett/Louis Hattingh 2:00:26
2 Brandon vd Walt/Stu McLaren 2:00:28
3 Hank McGregor/Siseko Ntondini 2:01:28
1 Bridgitte Hartley/Abby Solms 1:54:02
2 Jenna Ward/Kyeta Purchase 1:54:19 (U23)
3 Bianca Beavitt/Jane Swarbreck 2:01:46
1 Kenny Rice/Thomas Lovemore 2:11:08
2 Anders Hart/Tyron Maher 2:16:00
3 Marco Marsh/Donovan Vermeulen 2:24:14
1 Jean van der Westhuyzen/Mark Keeling 1:32:38
2 Zachary Preyser/Ulvard Hart 1:32:57
3 Bailey de Fondamiere/Alex Masina 1:34:09
1 Sabina Lawrie/Christie Mackenzie 1:25:07
2 Jessica Croudace/Katie Croudace 1:34:02
3 Rebecca Meihuizen/Jackie vd Westhuysen 1:35:09
1 Hamish McKenzie/Dave Evans 1:36:31
2 Callam Davis/Sibusiso Chwayi 1:41:26
3 Sandile Mtolo/Minenhle Mbhele 1:45:33
1 Jessica Croudace/Katie Croudace 1:34:02
2 Rebecca Meihuizen/Jackie vd Westhuysen 1:35:09
3 Amy Peckett/Mea Stiglingh 1:38:56
Main picture of Hattingh and Birkett courtesy of John Hishin/Gameplan Media and picture of Hartley and Solms courtesy of Kassie Carstens/Gameplan Media