2023 Fish River Canoe Marathon Media Service  No: Fish2307

30 Sept 2023

 Embargo: None Written by: Tim Whitfield

WEEKEND PREVIEW: Birkett and Louw favoured for SA title

Cradock - Just under a week to go until Cradock once again becomes the centre of South African canoeing, and hundreds of paddlers converge on the quaint Eastern Cape town for one of South Africa's favourite canoe races, the Fish River Canoe Marathon which takes place on Friday and Saturdau next week.

The 2023 edition has extra significance because the cream of South African canoeing will be fighting for national titles across all age groups as the two-day, 82km race from Grassridge Dam to Cradock has been designated this year's SA K2 River Championships.

The paddler to beat for the past few years has been former World Champion Andy Birkett, and he is once again the favourite and a good bet to claim a hat-trick of victories after his K1 win last year and victory with Nic Notten in 2021.

This year Birkett, who has just returned from the recent World Championships in Denmark with a K1 silver medal, will be teaming up with Greg Louw, and the 2015 and 2017 winners are probably the crew to beat for anybody who hopes to claim the SA title.

Despite not having paddled together at this race for a few years, this combination can also claim to be some form of defending champions after winning the 2015 event together, the last time the Fish was designated as the SA K2 River Championships.

But they face some strong crews who have the pedigree to take the title away from the Eastern Cape pair.

The Western Cape challenge is likely to come from recent Breede River Marathon winners Mark Keeling and Luke Le Roux, while both the other podium crews from that key Western Cape event are Israel's Ron Benjaro and Thomas Lovemore. and Jeremy Maher and David Evans – a combination of U23 paddlers who have both enjoyed a strong season.

Hamish Lovemore, who teamed up with brother Thomas to win the Liebensbergvlei Marathon earlier this month, will be paired with Clint Cook next weekend and they cannot be discounted as serious challengers, while the runners up in that two-day event in the Free State, Wayne Jacobs and Bradley Boulle, will also be hoping to be in contention at the end of each day.

Two significant names who have surprisingly entered as K1s and so will not be competing for the national K2 titles, are multiple World Champion Hank McGregor and Olympic medallist Bridgitte Hartley.

In the absence of Hartley, her race-winning partner from the 2021 event, Christie McKenzie, and Saskia Hockly are probably the women's crew to beat. They should face a tough challenge from Jenna Nisbett and Pippa McGregor, while Candice Starr and Stephanie von der Heyde will be looking to cause an upset.

The Fish River Marathon starts at Grassridge Dam just outside Cradock and Friday's first stage finishes 46km downstream at Knutsford Bridge. The 36km second stage takes paddlers from there to Cradock on Saturday.

More information can be found at www.fishmarathon.org.za.


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The official Fish River Marathon Logo

Breede River Marathon winners Mark Keeling and Luke Le Roux will head up the Western Cape Challenge at the 2023 Fish River Marathon next weekend. John Hishin / Gameplan Media
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