By Quintin van Jaarsveld
Mike Halliday won his first national K1 canoe title at the Klip River Canoe Marathon, which doubled as the South African K1 River Championships, on the Klip River in Gauteng on Sunday.
Typical Highveld thunderstorms late last week provided the river with a healthy boost and canoeists with a tough two days on the water.
Fresh off winning age-group gold in the Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon the previous weekend, Southbroom veteran Halliday rode the wave of momentum all the way to his maiden South African K1 canoe title in the great grand masters division.
“It’s a very special win,” 64-year-old Halliday told eHowz!t.
“I won a SA surfski title two years ago in Cape Town and I’ve won many SA titles for surf lifesaving but winning my first SA K1 canoe title is very special for me.
“The river was very challenging as there were many tree blocks and rapids, which made the going very tough.
“Not knowing the river also made it very difficult as you’re never sure what’s around the next corner.”
Halliday’s heroics also helped the four-man KwaZulu-Natal team of himself, world marathon champion Hank McGregor, James Tutton and Marion Young secure silver in the provincial team event.
McGregor notches up another SA title
Meanwhile, five-time marathon world champion McGregor claimed yet another national title as he streaked home ahead of local paddler Siseko Ntondini.
The Jeep Team/Kayak Centre star claimed the top step of the podium on both days and finished in an overall time of four hours 40 minutes while runner-up Ntondini was the first Under-23 and Gauteng local across the line three minutes, just a second ahead of Soweto Canoeing and Recreation Club (SCARC) team mate Thando Ngamlana.
The Gauteng four-man team of Ntondini, Ngamlana, Alex Roberts and Phineas Zulu won the team provincial event with a combined time of 19 hours 20 minutes.
McGregor, who went into the race having never raced on the Klip River before, was pleasantly surprised by both the race and the river.
“I went into the race blind but I had a really great time!” a happy McGregor said.
“It was super fun with surprises around every corner which was something that I really appreciated; it was a great adventure!”
Although the race might have been missing a number of the country’s top river marathoners, McGregor found himself still having to work hard at the beginning of the race to stay with the local paddlers in the foreign conditions.
“We had quite a long portage early on in the race and my running isn’t great at the moment so I found myself at the back of A Batch following the portage and having to negotiate my way through the field which was a new adventure for me.
“The SCARC guys are all gearing up for the Dusi and are in great running form at the moment so they got away from me a bit on the portage and then the river is really narrow, probably a boat length wide, so getting through the field and trying to catch the guys was probably the hardest part,” he added.
The recent father felt that the race was demanding throughout and kept the paddlers guessing, something he enjoyed.
“Having to get through tree blocks as well as negotiating the rapids meant that the race was really demanding on your river skills and I underestimated the race and was caught a little unawares which was a fantastic surprise!
“It was a great race and I really want to come back and take part in it again in the future!” a satisfied McGregor mentioned.
McGregor was also quick to mention the effort of the race organisers and thank them not only for the well organised race but for their hospitality towards both he and his family as well.
“The Gauteng Canoe Union really went out of their way to make me feel welcome and I felt that they were always there to help and I appreciate their efforts!
“The hospitality was great and I would like to thank the organisers and the GCU for their efforts,” McGregor added gratefully.
The small women’s field was led home by Gauteng paddler Morgan Ziervogel while the ever-green Marion Young finished second and Monique Steven claimed third.
The organisers of the race went out of their way to make the event a success and with the help of local businesses and sponsors, were able to make the event enjoyable and exciting with spot-prizes and significant prize money on offer.