Team South Africa bagged two medals at the start of the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships on the Oklahoma River on Friday, with Durbanite Jenna Ward and Pietermaritzburg schoolboy Louis Hattingh both grabbing bronze medals.
Maritzburg College schoolboy Hattingh won plenty of admirers at the event with a courageous second half fightback in the Under-18 K1 race that saw him claw his way back onto the lead bunch of three boats, and then dig deep to contest the end-sprint and secure a place on the podium.
Similarly Durbanite Jenna Ward staged a stunning late charge in the women’s Under-23 race that saw her rejoin a big group on the final lap. A well timed surge going into the last portage saw her put in first and lead the final half lap, and contest the dice for the line, and earn her first world championship medal.
‘My training going into the world champs was a lot more intense, training with Lee McGregor and the MacSquad on Blue Lagoon,’ said Ward.
‘I can’t really describe what I am feeling. Even though it is only a bronze it is like a gold to me. In the bunch of six that I was in at the end I felt that my speed was the weakest.
‘In those last 50 strokes in the end sprint I somehow managed to find something that allowed me to get up there and get the bronze.’
The title was won by the remarkable Hungarian Tamara Takasc, despite erroneously taking a portage on the first lap, which gave her competitors a distinct advantage, and then falling out of her kayak at the put in on another portage.
The men’s Under-23 title race proved to be a relentless onslaught as Hungarian ace Balasz Havas engineered a four-boat breakaway from an initial twelve boat lead bunch, and then broke away alone before halfway to win by more than a minute.
Former Under-23 world champion Brandon van der Walt found himself in the chasing bunch throughout and had to settle for a ninth place finish, with teammate Stu MacLaren in 12th.
The six races on the first day of the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships were dominated by paddlers from Hungary and Denmark, who turned the six and seven lap races on the excellent facility on the Oklahoma River into a near sprint regatta.
The efforts by the Junior and Under-23 K1 paddlers follow a highly successful effort by the Team South Africa veteran and masters paddlers who bagged 12 medals in the Masters Cup competition, five of them golds.
On Saturday three times world champion Hank McGregor will set about the defence of his K1 world crown.
JUNIOR AND UNDER 23 K1 RACES
K1 Men Juniors
1 Mads Brandt Petersen DEN 1:36:57.876
2 Antal Vidakovich HUN 1:37:23.632
3 Louis Hattingh SA 1:38:02.014
14 Bryan le Roux SA 1:44:09.442
K1 Women Juniors
1 Tamara Takacs HUN 1:32:19.569
2 Elisabetta Maffioli ITA 1:32:34.471
3 Lili Katona HUN 1:33:12.727
10 Julia Trodd SA 1:36:50.613
K1 Women Under-23
1 Vanda Kiszli HUN 1:49:11.790
2 Samantha Rees-Clark GBR 1:49:12.918
3 Jenna Ward SA 1:49:13.894
K1 Men Under-23
1 Balazs Havas HUN 1:55:30.131
2 Casper Pretzmann DEN 1:56:33.813
3 Laszlo Solti HUN 1:56:34.445
9 Brandon van der Walt SA 1:59:16.871
12 Stuart McLaren SA 2:02:26.307