Johannesburg - Hank McGregor took a major step forward in his bid to retain his World Marathon Championship title after a weekend of total domination.
McGregor clinched the men's K1 and K2 titles in Elgin at the weekend, sending a warning to his foreign challengers with superb performances at the national trials for this year's global canoe marathon championships in Rome.
The Team Best 4 Kayak Centre skipper won the K1 national crown for the sixth time at a cold and blustery Mofam dam, and then combined with injured teammate Grant van der Walt to complete the double by winning the K2 title on Sunday.
"The K1 race went just as I wanted it to go," McGregor said.
"I was able to break away after the last portage and won it clear of Len Jenkins in second.
"It was a hard race, though, as the challenge from the Cape guys like the Mocke brothers, Graeme Solomon and Simon van Gysen, who were strong throughout the race."
Van der Walt, meanwhile, did not have any assurances from the national selectors, due to a back injury, regarding his place in the team for Rome.
While McGregor retreated from the miserable weather to watch the Springboks rugby Test on Saturday afternoon, Van der Walt headed out onto the water to test his painful back on the portages.
"I left it entirely up to him [whether they should compete]," McGregor said.
"I understood the predicament he was in and did not put him under any pressure, and even said I was happy not to race if he felt he couldn't do it."
Van der Walt, however, opted to race, and the duo, after spending little time in the boat together, started cautiously against the small but strong field.
"We jogged all the portages, and throughout the race I kept asking him if he was alright," McGregor said.
"I didn't get an answer which I took as he was battling.
"We pushed on and got into the last portage clean but with a big bunch."
McGregor and Van der Walt were able to power away over the last eight minutes of the final lap to claim the gold medal.
Alexa Cole mirrored McGregor's achievements in the women's competition, winning the singles easily, and then adding the K2 title with Eloise van Gysen the following day.