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Double gold day for Team SA as McGregor retains World crown

Hank McGregor blitzed to a fourth world K1 title on Saturday, a day that saw Team SA grab two gold medals at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships on the Oklahoma River in the United States.

McGregor never lost control of the senior men’s K1 race, and was happy to bide his time in third heading into the final turn.

With 200 metres to go he swung out to the right and produced a devastating end-sprint that left the other three paddlers reeling in his wake.

So dominant was this coup de grâce that he was able to stop paddling to salute the large contingent of South African supporters on the bank, and then threw his paddle away in celebration as he crossed the line.

Spanish ace Ivan Alonso took the silver medal and Portugal’s Josa Ramalho the bronze. Another South African, Jasper Mocké, finished sixth.

“It was a very tactical race,” said McGregor afterwards. “The best paddlers in the world were there and everyone had a good idea of everyone’s strengths and weaknesses.

“There was a lot of jostling, a lot of tactics, a lot of testosterone all thrown into a gladiators’ pit and you just hope you are the one that comes out on top.”

McGregor said he was unaware that they were on the final lap of the race, explaining why the paddlers had not put in the expected charge into the final portage.

“I really didn’t know that we were going into the final lap. I shouted to my dad on the portage and he told me that we were on the last lap. I think people were expecting me to run really hard on the portages but I didn’t.

“I looked to conserve energy on the run. I decided to beat them on the water instead of on the portages and that really played in my favour because the others all ran really hard on the portages and then ran out of steam on the paddle leg.”

On the third lap the front group had consolidated into six paddlers, with the dominant athletes being McGregor, Cyrille Carre (France), Alonso and Ramalho, with Mocké and Javier Ruiz (Spain) struggling to hang onto the back of the bunch.

Carre came home fourth ahead of Ruiz and Mocké.

Earlier in the day, the unheralded crew of Maritzburg College ace Louis Hattingh, who won the bronze medal in the Under-18 boys’ K1 race on the first day of competition, and 15-year-old Michaelhouse sprinter Jean van der Westhuizen secured the first world title for Team SA in a thrilling Under-18 boys’ K2 race.

The duo led out of the last portage and raced away to win from two strong Hungarian crews.

The South African junior girls’ crew of Julia Trodd and Gerda Smit finished fourth after leading the second bunch for much of the girls’ race.

In the senior women’s K1 race, Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley finished 10th, just ahead of former compatriot and doubles partner Michele Eray, who was paddling for the US.

The competition concludes on Sunday with the K2 senior races.


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