McGregor withdrawal forces team changes for World Champs
Shaoxing Ė The shock withdrawal of twelve times world champion Hank McGregor
on the eve of the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Shaoxing in
Eastern China has forced the national selectors to rejig the senior menís
teams for the global showdown that starts on Thursday.
McGregor reluctantly stepped down after failing to shake off a serious virus
problem in time to take his place in the line-up for both the senior menís
K1 and K2 world title challenges, after trying to keep the illness secret in
the hopes that it would improve enough for him to be able to compete.
After medical advice on Wednesday underscored that it was not possible to
race, the 41 year icon stepped down, leaving the national selectors the job
to plug the gap in the senior menís K1 team alongside reigning world champ
Andy Birkett, who was also due to defend the K2 world title he won with
McGregor in Portugal last year.
The call went out to Capetonian Nick Notten, who stunned the SA
Championships earlier in the year by pushing McGregor and Birkett hard to
the finish line in a thrilling three-way K1 duel, and against all odds he
had the necessary travel documents to be able to board the next flight to
China to arrive in time to race the Menís K1 race on Saturday afternoon.
While they have never paddled together, Birkett was happy to take Notten on
as his K2 partner on Sunday, having been thoroughly impressed by his gutsy
tenacity at the national trials.
Clint Cook, who was with the team in China to support his girlfriend
Christie Mackenzie, will now race in McGregorís place in the new short
course race on Thursday.
The withdrawal of McGregor will shake the event as a whole, but it may well
galvanise the South African team, buoyed by the fifteen medal haul from the
veteran and masters paddlers in the opening two days of competition.
The world championships begins with the junior K1 races on Thursday, along
with the recently introduced and spectator-friendly short races.
In the Under 18 K1 races South Africa will be represented by Hamish
Mackenzie and Uli Hart in the menís division and Amy Peckett and Under 16
ace Georgina Howard in the womenís race.
Hart and Peckett will return for a second crack at the junior K1 race while
former K2 specialist and two-time World Championship medal winner Mackenzie
takes on the K1 race for the first time along with debutant Howard.
In the Under 23 K1 races, Hamish Lovemore will make his first appearance in
a single at a marathon world championships. He debuted in 2017 in
Pietermaritzburg in the K2 race and had rudder issues that prevented him and
partner Calum Davis from fighting it out for a medal.
He will be joined by former junior K1 medallist Alex Masina, who won bronze
in Pietermaritzburg two years ago and will be hoping to continue that trend
going into the Under 23 K1 race on Friday.
There will be big expectations on the womenís Under 23 K1 boats. Both are
previous medal winners and had a ding-dong battle at the national
championships at Cradle Moon Lake earlier in the year.
Kyeta Purchase and Christie Mackenzie are both former junior K1 bronze
medallists and with a few yearsí worth of experience under their belts they
both could well be in the medal mix come the closing stages of their race.
Sprint queen Bridgitte Hartley made the transition to marathon paddling and
has been a consistent performer nationally, and will be looking to assert
herself on the international stage. She becomes the first South African
paddler to represent her country at sprint, marathon and surfski world
championships level in the same calendar year.
She will be tackling the senior womenís K1 race this year and will be hoping
to improve on her consecutive twelfth position finishes in the last two
editions of the marathon world championships.
Jenna Ward will also be in action in the senior womenís K1 race has a strong
pedigree in singles racing. She has an Under 23 bronze medal to her name and
finished seventh in Portugal last year.
Birkett and his new partner Notten will take to the water for the senior
menís K2 title decider with team mates Alex Masina and Louis Hattingh, who
made a statement at the national championships by pushing Birkett and
McGregor right to the line during the event that doubled as the trials for
national team to China.
In the senior womenís division, Jenna Ward and Kyeta Purchase have reignited
their partnership for the 2019 World Championships. It is a partnership that
produced a silver medal in the senior womenís K2 race back in 2016 and with
more experience under their belts they will be looking to repeat that, if
not improve on it.
Bridgitte Hartley and Christie Mackenzie are the other senior womenís K2
boat and will be equally determined to push for a podium spot. They have
paddled river marathons together and won the 2019 SA Marathon Championships
ahead of Ward and Purchase so they have the pedigree to compete.
In the junior menís K2 showdown there is much excitement around the crew of
Hamish Mackenzie and David Evans, who will be hoping to add a gold medal to
their two world championship medals that they have won in the past two
editions of the event.
The pair have been a potent force in junior K2 racing for some time and the
time is ripe for them to add a gold to their silver and bronze medals they
The other K2 pair will be a duo of world champs debutants in Gustav Smook
Junior and Bartho Visser. They will be hoping that they can put in a strong
showing in their first outing to the international showpiece.
Amy Peckett and Nosipho Mthembu will be one of the junior women K2 crews on
show in Shaoxing. The pair beat the under 16 duo of Georgina Howard and
Melonie Croeser at the national championships and both pairs will be hoping
to put in strong performances this week.
For more information visit
2019 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships Schedule (SA Time)
Thursday, 17 October
02:30AM - Junior Women K1
04:45AM - Senior Women K1 Short Course: Heat One
05:10AM - Senior Women K1 Short Course: Heat Two
05:35AM - Senior Men K1 Short Course: Heat One
05:50AM - Senior Men K1 Short Course: Heat Two
06:45AM - Junior Men K1
10:15AM - Senior Women Short Course: Final
10:40AM - Senior Men Short Course: Final
Friday, 18 October
02:30AM - Junior K2 Women
04:30AM - U23 K1 Women
06:45AM - Junior K2 men
08:45AM - U23 K1 Men
Saturday, 19 October
06:30AM - K1 Women
09:00AM - K1 Men
Sunday, 20 October
05:15AM - K2 Women
08:15AM - K2 Men