South Africa’s Andy Birkett has realised a lifelong dream by winning the men’s K1 title at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Portugal.
The multiple Dusi champ took full control of the 30-kilometre eight-lap race against a very strong field, and raced a tactically astute team race with compatriot Jasper Mocké, and went into the final 1,000m lap in a three-way tussle with Hungarian ace Adrian Boros.
Taking a leaf out of the outgoing world champ Hank McGregor’s book, Birkett ran the last portage hard, put in first and never looked like relinquishing his grip on the race.
The Euro Steel speedster won impressively while Boros had enough energy left to edge Mocké into the bronze medal position.
‘It was great racing. Well done to my teammate Jasper on his third place,’ said an elated Birkett, who dedicated the win to his 12-week-old son, David. ’
‘There’s so much depth in the men’s singles. If the pace slows down, the guys will always catch you, and you never really know who will be strong on the day.
‘I don’t know if it panned out quite how I thought, with the guys racing around me, but it was tough racing, like it always is. ’
This is something that I have been trying to do for a long time, so I am super stoked,’ he added.
In the women’s K1 race, Bridgitte Hartley and Jenna Ward stayed with a nine-boat break early on in the seven-lap affair, but once the Hungarians Sara Mihalik and Vanda Kisli started to up the ante, they were dropped off the front.
By halfway, Ward was driving the fight back relentlessly, and Hartley became a victim of that desperate surging, and she fell back out of contention.
Kisli, who was Ward’s partner in the last FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon K2 race, went on to win her maiden world marathon champs K1 title impressively from her compatriot Mihalik, with Spaniard Barrios third.
Ward ended up finishing a solid seventh in the end, with Hartley, who was stranded between the second and third groups for much of the remainder of the contest, finishing 12th.
Sunday’s programme sees South African paddlers taking on the men’s K2 and the women’s K2 races.
PHOTOS: Birkett on the way to win and Ward running hard during a portage, by Anthony Grote and Cam Hudson/Gameplan Media
SUMMARY OF RESULTS
1 Vanda Kiszli HUN 2hr 06min 16.40sec
2 Sára Mihalik HUN 2:06:29.31
3 Eva Barrios ESP 2:06:30.84
4 Anna Koziskova CZE 2:06:42.43
5 Jennifer Egan IRL 2:07:00.31
6 Kristina Bedec SRB 2:07:08.73
7 Jenna Ward RSA 2:07:29.72
8 Lizzie Broughton GBR 2:09:01.58
9 Gaia Piazza ITA 2:09:10.22
10 Teneale Hatton NZL 2:09:28.70
11 Aurora Figueras ESP 2:11:09.02
12 Bridgitte Hartley RSA 2:12:09.49
1 Andrew Birkett RSA 2:09:29.06
2 Adrián Boros HUN 2:09:30.85
3 Jasper Mocke RSA 2:09:33.04
4 Quentin Urban FRA 2:09:40.66
5 Mads Pedersen DEN 2:09:41.21
6 José Ramalho POR 2:09:42.65
7 Jakub Adam CZE 2:09:59.08
8 Filippo Vincenzi ITA 2:10:11.72
9 Emilio Merchan ESP 2:10:43.53
10 Krisztián Máthé HUN 2:10:43.98