Pietermaritzburg - While the canoeing community celebrates Hank McGregor
winning the Athlete of the Year at the inaugural World Paddle Awards in Germany
on the weekend, canoeing officials are hoping that this will be the start of a
golden period for South African paddling with the eyes of paddling world
shifting to South Africa with the Marathon World Championships coming in 2017.
McGregor beat off Frenchman slalom icon Fabien Lefevre and German Olympic C1
paddler Sebastian Brendel to claim the coveted award, which was presented to
him at a glittering ceremony in the Goldener Saal in Augsburg on Saturday
McGregor is a five time marathon World Champion, and became the first South
African to win the K1 and K2 title at the same World Championships at the 2014
World Championships in Oklahoma City. His stellar career includes wins at the
tough Molokai Challenge surfski race and numerous domestic river marathon
titles in South Africa. He became the first athlete to win national singles and
doubles title in river marathon, flatwater marathon and surfski in the same
"This award is really special to me as many sportsman know that hard
training and dedication sometimes goes by unnoticed," said McGregor.
"This award has made all the difference."
The award has sent ripples of appreciation around local and international
paddling circles, many of whom concur that McGregor is the best all round
paddler to have emerged from the unique South African paddling community.
Local organisers of the sport have heralded the award as the start of a golden
era for paddling in South Africa as the nation prepares to host the marathon
World Cup and African Championships in 2016 and the marathon World
Championships in 2017.
"Hank McGregor has single headedly reinvigorated the interest in flatwater
marathon racing in South Africa," said Canoeing South Africa's Marathon
Committee chairperson Brett Austin Smith.
"In a country obsessed with river racing, his consistent achievements at a
flatwater world marathon championships level has sparked a resurgence of
interest in this discipline across the country, which has helped to lay the
foundation for the successful bid to bring the marathon World Championships to
Camps Drift," he added.
The build-up to the 2017 global showcase starts this month with the KZN
Marathon championships testing the revamped layout on the uMsundusi river in
Pietermaritzburg where new extended jetties have been built for the key
portages on every lap.