Canoeing South Africa on Tuesday named a strong side for the ICF (International Canoe Federation) Canoe Marathon World Championships in Shaoxing, China from 17-20 October.
The selection comes just after the conclusion of the recent South African Canoe Marathon Championships in Pietermaritzburg.
Topped by world champions Andy Birkett and Hank McGregor, the team of seniors, under-23 and junior athletes for the trip to the Far East will include two black paddlers in Alex Masina and Nosipho Mthembu.
Masina won a bronze in the junior boys K1 race in 2017 at the World Champs in Pietermaritzburg.
Mthembu will paddle in the U18 Girls K2 race with Amy Peckett.
Marathon paddling is arguably the strongest canoeing discipline for South Africa on a global scale and they currently house the K1 and K2 men’s senior World Champion in Birkett.
McGregor, a 13-time World Champion, came out of retirement in a K1 at the national trial.
The veteran, who has won eight K1 gold medals, four K2 golds and one K2 silver medal, didn’t compete in the K1 race at the 2018 World Championships but won the K2 showdown with Birkett.
With only two boats in each category qualifying, racing at the national championships was fierce and the K2 racing was no exception. Birkett and McGregor won the race by a whisker over the young, exciting Under-23 duo of Masina and Louis Hattingh.
In the senior women’s class, Bridgitte Hartley was the winner and she will represent South Africa once again at the world champs.
She will be joined by a former Under-23 medallist Jenna Ward, who has shown that she is getting back to her best.
In the K2 racing at the showpiece in the East, Hartley and Christie Mackenzie are the senior women’s crew representing South Africa, while former world championship silver medallists Ward and Kyeta Purchase are also entered.
The juniors are another exciting age category as they give a glimpse into the future of marathon racing in the country.
From a K1 perspective, Hamish Mackenzie and Uli Hart will represent the SA U18 boys team, while Peckett and Georgina Howard will do battle for the U18 girls.
South Africa Marathon Champs Canoeing Team
K1, U18 Boys: Hamish Mackenzie, Uli Hart
K1, U18 Girls: Amy Peckett, Georgina Howard
U23 Men: Hamish Lovemore, Alex Masina
U23 Women: Kyeta Purchase, Christie Mackenzie
Senior Men: Andy Birkett, Hank McGregor
Senior Women: Bridgitte Hartley, Jenna Ward
K2, U18 Boys: David Evans, Hamish Mackenzie, Gustav Smook Jnr, Bartho Visser
U18 Girls: Amy Peckett, Nosipho Mthembu, Georgina Howard, Melonie Croeser
Senior Men: Andy Birkett, Hank McGregor, Louis Hatting, Alex Masina
Senior Women: Christie Mackenzie, Bridgitte Hartley, Jenna Ward, Kyeta Purchase – African News Agency (ANA) Editing by Herman Gibbs