Paddle power: Hayley Nixon led home a five-medal haul for Team SA when she won the senior women’s crown a the ICF Ocean Racing World Championships in Hong Kong at the weekend. Picture: ANTHONY GROTE/GAMEPLAN MEDIA
Paddle power: Hayley Nixon led home a five-medal haul for Team SA when she won the senior women’s crown a the ICF Ocean Racing World Championships in Hong Kong at the weekend. Picture: ANTHONY GROTE/GAMEPLAN MEDIA

Hayley Nixon became SA’s newest world champion when she conquered tough conditions and a strong field to win the International Canoe Federation’s Ocean Racing World Championships in Hong Kong.

Nixon (part of Euro Steel/Carbonology Sport) led home a team charge that yielded four of the top six senior women, a silver in the Under-23 women and two junior medals, with Sabina Lawrie becoming the new junior world champion.

Nixon, who came to canoeing and surfski racing from a rowing background, realised a lifelong dream of becoming a world champion, when she won the Surfski World Series title.

"World champion – I think I’m going to cry," she said on the finish line.

"I’ve been waiting to hear that all my life. It feels like I have ticked this massive box!

"I couldn’t be more proud. I’ve finished next to a previous world champion [New Zealand’s Teneale Hatton], and Michelle Burn [of SA], who was almost a world champion."

Nixon said the flat and windless conditions combined with the humidity had made the race particularly taxing, which played into her hands.

"I’m really efficient when it’s long and hard. For me, the harder the better. That’s where I really get to thrive.

"I think a lot of these girls come from surf lifesaving and big wave backgrounds, so they’re really lethal in the runs. That’s where they’re efficient."

Amanzimtoti downwind star Michele Burn claimed the silver medal for SA, with London Olympics bronze medallist Bridget Hartley fourth and Nikki Russell taking sixth place.

In the junior race Sabina Lawrie was all smiles as she climbed to the top of the podium after winning the Under-18 girls title, ahead of Australian schoolgirl Georgia Sinclair, with fellow South African Zara Wood claiming the bronze medal.

"The race was very hectic. There was absolutely no wind so it was a solid grind from start to finish," said Lawrie.

Team SA scooped a fifth medal when Durbanite Kyeta Purchase finished second in the Under-23 race won by Swede Linnea Stensils.

Not to be outdone, the South African men were as impressive as their female counterparts on Sunday, filling five of the top seven places, with Hank McGregor losing a thrilling title race to Australian defending champion Cory Hill. In sharp contrast to the conditions for the women’s race, overnight winds whipped up 3m swells, and made the fabled 22km Dragon Run course a test of downwind and ocean racing skills.

"Hats off to Corey, he raced a great race," said McGregor.

"I got swamped at Kissing Whales [a headland 5km from the finish], and that cost me 60 or 70m."

Jasper Mocké snatched the last podium place, some way clear of countryman and Under-23 winner Kenny Rice and his brother Shaun Rice.

There was celebration in the Team SA camp as Under-23 star Kenny Rice became the team’s third world champion, following Nixon in the senior women’s race and Sabina Lawrie doing the same in the junior girls.

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