Durban - At a gala dinner in Hillcrest on Sunday evening, South African
paddling icons Hank McGregor and Bridgitte Hartley were named African Canoe
Federation’s Men’s and Women’s Paddler of the Year for 2015, bringing down the
curtain on the 2016 ICF Canoe Sprint African Championships held at Shongweni
Dam this past weekend.
The three days of racing saw team South Africa dominate the Continental
Championships and 2016 Olympic Games qualifier’s proceedings, with the host
nation going on to top the final medal standings with 15 medals, 12 of
which were gold.
McGregor, who did not take part in the sprint event but has excelled on both
locally and internationally over the past decade, resulting in him being named
the World Paddle Awards Male Paddler of the Year in 2014, was thrilled by the
award from the Confederation of African Canoeing (CAC).
“It is a great honour to receive this award and be recognised on a continental
level, especially coming off the back of winning the Paddler of the Year title
at the World Paddle Awards last year,” said McGregor.
“It’s a proud moment for me and hopefully it helps my paddling peers,
especially the youth, aspire to do their best and also realise that if they are
willing to put in the hard work then the results and accolades will come,” he
Hartley, the 2012 London Olympics K1 Women 500m bronze medallist, added her
appreciation for the continental recognition.
“It is great to be recognised by your peers on the African continent,” said
Hartley. “I hope this can serve as further motivation for the other female
paddlers in Africa to keep working and driving the competitive standard of
Having already secured Olympic qualification at last year’s World
Championships, the continental clash presented Hartley with another good
opportunity to continue her preparations for the Rio de Janeiro showpiece in
“Having had all this racing at Shongweni – just down the road from where I stay
– over the past few weeks has been great and I definitely think it has
benefitted me,” she confirmed after winning her K1 Women 500m clash.
“I’ve been able to compete at the KZN Champs, SA Champs and now the African
Champs all on the same piece of water and while being an outdoors sport and so
conditions obviously change, it has been nice to be able to compare a few races
and say ‘yes, I’m on track of Rio’.
“I was happy with how things went; it got a bit hard at the end and I slowed up
a bit but it’s a good starting block for me.
“I’ve got almost two months before my first major competition still and if I
can do a 1:55 in South Africa then I think I’m on track at this stage!” she
Hartley, who also claimed victories in the weekend’s K1 Women 200m and K1 Women
5 000m events, joined Bianca Beavitt and Melanie van Niekerk (K2 Women 500m and
K2 Women 200m) and young Donna Hutton (K1 Junior Women 500m and K1 Junior Women
200m) as Team South Africa’s four multiple title winners.
“I really enjoyed the course at Shongweni Dam; it’s one of the nicest courses
I’ve paddled on in South Africa,” explained Under-18 athlete Hutton.
“It was also great to have had the opportunity to get to know the course and
the conditions at SA Champs and SA Schools that took place over the two
weekends before African Champs!” she added.
Under-23 talent Louis Hattingh came close to securing the K1 Men 1 000m title,
narrowly missing out to Tunisia’s Mohamed Ali Mrabet, but went on to win the K2
Men 1 000m with Stu Maclaren while Jean van der Westhuyzen was in a class of his
own in the K1 Junior Men 1 000m.
“This is my first African Champs so it was nice to get the win and my first
continental title,” explained Van der Westhuyzen.
“It was great to race another 1 000m race before World Champs in July, which is
my next major focus before I try to make the marathon team for Worlds,” added
the Michaelhouse pupil.
The 200m events also saw Team South Africa well represented with victories by
Jarryd Gibson (K1 Junior Men 200m), Chrisjan Coetzee (K1 Men 200m) and Calvin
Clack and Cameron Hudson (K2 Senior Men 200m).
Maclaren added a bronze medal to his tally with his K1 Men 5 000m effort while
Calvin Mokoto and Radoslav Olszewski repeated the feat in the C2 Men 1 000m
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