Hank McGregor during day 1 of the 2021 Berg River Canoe Marathon on August 5, 2021 in Paarl. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/GRANT PITCHER
Hank McGregor during day 1 of the 2021 Berg River Canoe Marathon on August 5, 2021 in Paarl. Picture: GALLO IMAGES/GRANT PITCHER

SA river paddling stars Hank McGregor and Christie Mackenzie showed their impressive form ahead of the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships by winning the SA K1 River Championship titles at the recent Standard Bank Liebenbergsvlei Canoe Marathon.

With just a few weeks to go until the country’s best flat-water marathon paddlers head to Romania for the world championships, Euro Steel’s McGregor and Varsity College/Euro Steel’s Mackenzie proved they are in good shape ahead of their European trip.

The national title took McGregor one step closer to that magical number 10 for national river K1 titles, but it was exciting racing for the veteran on a river he had never raced on before.

“It’s always fun and exciting racing on water that you have never paddled on before,” he said. “I always enjoy the unknown of racing on a river blind, and the racing was exciting through the two days because there was a strong field of paddlers hoping to win the title.

“I am really happy to come away with the win, especially as I am pretty tired, but it was a good race and it was good training for Romania.

“To then win the K2 race with my wife Pippa on Sunday was another highlight for us,” he said.

McGregor had a tough task of holding off the Gauteng duo of Clinton Cook and Wayne Jacobs, as well as dealing with the young Sam Butcher and the likes of Msawenkosi Mtolo, Thulani Mbanjwa and another under-23 paddler, Liam Stewart from Gauteng.

Ultimately McGregor’s experience saw him claim the gold medal ahead of Cook by just under two minutes while Jacobs sewed up the bronze medal.

In the women’s race, Mackenzie had a tough fight on her hands with fellow marathon star Jenna Nisbet. The two fought it out right to the line, with Joburg-based Mackenzie hanging in for victory by just over 10sec.

Under-16 star Valmajean Hockly locked up the bronze medal and with it the under-18 girls crown.

The men’s under-23 gold medal went to Butcher ahead of Stewart in second and Mpilo Zondi in third, while Sandile Mbanjwa was the first under-18 boy across the line.

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