Pietermaritzburg - While the eyes of the canoeing world are fixed on the Czech Republic town of Racice this week, attention is already turning to the other end of the globe and the 25th edition of the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships that will take place at Camps Drift between and 4 and 10 October.
It will be the second time since the inaugural event in 1988 that the global title decider will be held on the African continent, after Cape Town hosted the event in 1998. The only other southern hemisphere country to have hosted the event is Australia.
Hungary comes to the 2017 event as the clearly dominant global marathon racing superpower, having won 131 senior medals in Kayak and C boat racing in the previous 24 editions of the marathon world champs, made up of 30 women's K2 medals, 29 men's C2, 27 men's C1, 20 women's K1, 13 men's K2 and 9 men's K1 medals.
The Hungarian success has been built on their depth of talent in both the men's and women's ranks, and their dominance in the C boat classes as well as the kayak classes. Their paddling icon Renáta Csay has won no less than 27 medals, 17 of them golds in the women's K1 and K2 championships races since her first in 1999.
In C boat racing Edvin Csaba's domination after the millennium segued into the arrival on the scene of Márton Kövér, who ensured that a Hungarian held the world title nine times in 13 years.
Spain is second on the all-time medal winners chart, thanks largely to their men's kayakers Manuel Busto, Emilio Merchán, Álvaro Fernández, Walter Bouzan and Ivan Alonso.
Great Britain enjoyed consistent medals in the nineties, when Ivan Lawler and Anna Hemmings were consistently successful, keeping them in fourth place on the medal table, behind Denmark and just two ahead of the Czech Republic.
The host nation South Africa is sixth in the senior medal winners table, thanks mainly to Hank McGregor's recent dominance in the men's kayak class, and his partnership with Jasper Mocké in the K2s.
Interestingly the first medal won by a South African was earned by Dutch born Robbie Herreveld, in Amsterdam in 1994, two years before Hank McGregor won the Junior world crown in Sweden in 1996.
The best supported marathon world championships was in Singapore in 2011, when 39 different countries were represented. With the global title decider destined to return to Asia in 2019 when the champs will be staged in Shaoxing in China, participation level records could well be tested again.
Most medals won the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships
Great Britain 29
Czech Republic 27
South Africa 23
Australia, Sweden 13
France, Poland, Germany10
Soviet Union 3
East Germany, Serbia, Ukraine 2
Ireland, USA, New Zealand, Belgium, Austria, Bulgaria, Croatia, Slovakia, Canada 1