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Two golds for brothers

Team South Africa ended the ICT World Marathon Championships in style in Crestumo, Portugal Sunday when former world champions Shaun Rubenstein and Ant Stott took silver in the senior men’s K2 race.

This after Brandon van der Walt had got the championships off to the best possible start for the SA team by winning the Junior Men’s race on Friday.

Then older brother Grant van der Walt went on to cement the family name in history by claiming the gold medal in the Uner-23 Men’s event and the weekend assault was completed Sunday with Rubenstein and Stott.

The Junior Men’s K1 race was first off the start line, featuring Gauteng talents Brandon van der Walt and Murray Burgess.

Van der Walt quickly assumed his position in the lead bunch, riding competitor’s waves as he waited for the perfect moment to launch his attack. It happened on the fourth lap of five as he put in a hard interval that split the field up, leaving him alone with Belgian paddler Toon Broekx after the final portage.

A big kick at the turn buoy saw van der Walt surge ahead, and with 100m to go the Belgian realized he couldn’t keep up, put down his paddle, and allowed the South African to cruise across the finish line and claim an historic victory.

The win capped a unique family milestone as Brandon followed in the footsteps of older brother Grant van der Walt, who had won the Junior World Marathon title two years ago in Hungary.

Burgess was two minutes off the pace and finished in a credible sixth position. The two paired up for Saturday morning’s K2 race, where an unlucky swim before the first portage meant they had to play catch up for the rest of the race, ultimately finishing fifth. Considering the fact that both will still be juniors next year, there is much to say for the depth in the country’s paddling ranks.

Friday afternoon’s racing was headlined by the Men’s U23 event, featuring top South African paddlers Grant van der Walt and Pierre-Andre Rabie. Still only 19 years old, and competing in his first year outside the Junior category, Grant van der Walt kept up with the front bunch until the first portage, where disaster struck.

As he re-entered the water, he fell out of his boat, allowing five others to race away while he emptied. Displaying extreme physical and mental strength, van der Walt chased hard and was back on the bunch within a kilometre.

He looked relaxed and in control for the remainder of the six laps, and with competitors falling back throughout, found himself alone for an endsprint against Portuguese favourite Fernando Pimenta.

The Portuguese tried to cut him off, but van der Walt backed up behind him and launched a powerful surge that the local had no answer to, shooting him to the gold medal by nearly three seconds and into the history books. Stellenbosch student Pierre-Andre Rabie finished in 16th place. Both paddlers still have three years left in the U23 age group, meaning the country has a lot to look forward to in the near future.

Saturday’s exciting Senior K1 lineup, featuring sprint star Shaun Rubenstein and Len Jenkins, got off at breakneck pace that was astonishingly maintained for the full 30 kilometres. Drama struck on the fifth portage as it transpired that Jenkins’ drinking system had not been working.

The Pietermaritzburg paddler’s lack of energy was evident and he dropped off the front bunch and eventually finished in tenth place. Spanish legend Manuel Busto Fernandez would sprint away on the final lap to win an amazing fifth K1 World Marathon title, while Rubenstein, having chased his way back to the front bunch after a tough start, had to ultimately settle for fourth.

In Sunday’s showcase Senior Men’s K2 race, Rubenstein teamed up with reigning K2 World Champion Ant Stott, and the pair was locked in a tight tussle on the front bunch throughout.

The inevitable endsprint saw the Spanish boat come out trumps, with the South Africans less than two seconds behind to claim silver. Hank McGregor and Grant van der Walt were chasing the entire race, and finished in a well-earned fifth place.

The South African women had a difficult weekend, succumbing to boat trouble in the K2 event.

Bridgitte Hartley and Michele Eray were unable to finish the K2 race on Sunday, while Carol Joyce and Jen Hodson placed 16th. In the K1 women’s event the day before, Hartley finished ninth, nine seconds ahead of Eray in 10th. In the Junior Women’s events, Kerry Segal was eighth in the K1, with Kerry Malan and Jenna Ward 15th in the K2.

ICF World Marathon Championships, Portugal
Results ÔÇô Medal Winners

Junior Men’s K1
1 Brandon van der Walt (SA) 1h33m55.86s
2 Toon Broekx (BEL) 1:34:09.83
3 Dean Terry (GBR) 1:34:26.65

U23 Men’s K1
1 Grant van der Walt (SA) 1h53m49.24s
2 Fernando Pimenta (POR) 1:53:52.07
3 Thomas Daniels (GBR) 1:54:29.20

Senior Men’s K2
1 Emilio Merchan / Alvaro Fiuza (SPA) 1:58:22.69
2 Shaun Rubenstein / Ant Stott (SA) 1:58:24.11
3 Jakub Adam / Petr Jambor (CZE) 1:58:29.35