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Hartley in marathon action

Sprint World Cup medallist Bridgitte Hartley will be just one of the country’s top marathon paddlers in action at the Keurbooms River in Plettenberg Bay for the annual Hansa SA Canoe Marathon Championships this weekend.

The Knysna and Plettenberg Canoe clubs will jointly host the weekend’s racing. The basic format behind marathon canoeing is a lap-style course, with a 150-metre portage section near the end of each lap. Each lap is 4.3 kilometres long, and depending on the age category, paddlers race a set amount of laps.

The Senior and Under-23 Men race over a distance of 30km (seven laps and seven portages) and the Senior and U/23 women’s race consists of one less lap and portage over a distance of 25km.

This year, the SA Marathon Championships organising committee has set out to replicate the World Marathon Championship course as closely as possible in format, and as a result the course is now run in a clockwise direction with the portages at the end of each lap. The final lap will include a portage as well as an additional 500m paddle to the finish line. In a sport where a race can be won or lost on the portaging, this format makes for much more exciting racing and spectating.

With 2009 SA Marathon champ, Shaun Rubenstein, focussing on sprint kayaking in preparation for the 2012 Olympic Games, the men’s race has been left wide open for a new champion. The pedigreed list of competitors hoping to stake claim to this prestigious title includes excellent all rounders and past World Marathon medalists, Hank McGregor and Ant Stott, as well as the rising talent of Marc Holtzhausen.

The Under-23 line up includes past Junior World Marathon Champion, and current Under-23 World Marathon Champion, Grant van der Walt as well as Lance King and Shaun Rice. In the Junior Men’s racing, the paddlers to watch include the current Junior World Marathon champion, Brandon van der Walt, and up and coming youngsters Ivan Kruger, Gavin Shuter and Ruan Knobel.

The top contenders in the Senior Women’s category include defending SA Marathon Champion Hartley as well as Olympian and Surf ski ace Michele Eray. Hartley only got back from Europe earlier this week. Technically she’s not really supposed to be racing marathon distances while in sprint training but as she said this week, “I see my picture in all the posters advertising the event so I can’t really not be there taking part!’

In the Under-23 category, pedigreed river paddler Abby Adie will look to hold her own against the Western Cape’s Bianca Beavitt and the Maree sisters from the Eastern Cape. In the Junior girls racing, top contenders include Kerry Segal and Melanie van Niekerk, who will team up for Sunday’s race.

Racing begins each day at 9am, with the Senior and Under-23 Men racing at 1.30pm on Saturday for the K1 races and 12:30 on Sunday for the K2 racing with the women starting five minutes later. The final team for the World Marathon Championships to be held in Spain in September will be announced at 3pm on Sunday. For more information go to