The KwaZulu-Natal Canoe Marathon Championships, which took place at Natal Canoe Club (NCC) on the weekend, served as a trial run for next year’s ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships, which the club will be hosting, and the feedback has extremely positive.
“The course worked exceptionally well. Even the portage, which has very young grass on it, worked brilliantly well, and we are very happy with the outcome,” NCC General Manager Brett Austen Smith told The Witness yesterday.
“There weren’t any disciplinary incidents on the water, which means that the competence of our officials has risen and has affected the paddlers. In the past they would have tried to get away with things. Now they realise the officials know what to look for.
“The whole package was an immense step up and a vote of confidence in the standards for the World Championships.”
KwaZulu-Natal Canoe Union administrator John Oliver was impressed: “I couldn’t see any problems at all. It ran very smoothly. Normally, at whatever marathon event you go to, you get protests, but we didn’t have any.”
He, like Austen Smith, identified a group of volunteers that has been working together in preparation for staffing the World Championships. “It has a lot to do with the volunteers. The paddlers now have confidence in the whole system. We have now had four events in which they have worked together. It runs very smoothly.”
Without exception, the paddlers gave a thumbs-up for the World Championships course, which runs clockwise and not in the counter-clockwise direction that has traditionally been employed at NCC.
Austen Smith commented: “It has improved matters immensely. From every aspect of the event, it has been easier. It has taken away the potential for rule infringements. It has taken away congestion at the finish line, and it has improved the spectator element of it.”
Weighing in, Oliver added: “I think the reverse course is fine. It works very nicely. The paddlers getting in right in front of the clubhouse [after portaging] is very good.”
Reflecting on the discipline, he concluded: “Paddlers are getting more used to marathon racing than they were before. There is clearly an increase in the popularity of the discipline.”
After winning the team title at the SA Canoe Marathon Championships by a record margin last year at NCC, KZN will be sending a strong team to this year’s Championships in the Western Cape on June 11-12.
Boys u8: Sbolelo Ngobese; u10: Fanele Mkhunya; u12: Thobani Mkhize
Girls u10: Luyanda Mthembu; u12: Melanie Croeser; u12: Thobani Mkhize
Boys u14: Lindokuhle Amphumulo, Langelihle Shozi; u16: Callam Davis; u18: Jean van der Westhuyzen, Bailey de Fondaumiere
Girls u14: Nosipho Mthembu; u16: Amy Peckett; u18: Kyeta Purchase; u18 and u16 C1: Zimise Makhaye
Men u23: Louis Hattingh, Bryan le Roux; senior Andy Birkett; C1 Mbongiseni Dlamini
Women u23: Jenna Ward; senior: Abby Solms, Nikki Russell
Men SV: Ian Oliver, Stu Clifton; V: Zoog Haynes, Jason Ekstrand; SM: Graham Jewitt, Gavin Tarr; M: Eric Hildebrandt; SGM: Bruce Wenke, Linton Hope, Colin Simpkins; GM: Allan Hold; SGGM: Richard Venniker; GGM: Eddie Dykes
Women SV: Melissa van Rooyen; V: Marion Young; SM: Mandy Hoddinott; M: Kim Peek
Boys u14: Lindokuhle Maphumulo, Langelihle Shozi; u16: Sandile Mtolo, Minenhle Mbhele and Dave Evans, Hamish MacKenzie; u18: Emanuel Zaloumis, Hamish Lovermore
Girls u16: Katie Croudace, Jessica Croudace; u18: Sabine Lawrie, Christie MacKenzie
Men u23: Jarryd Gibson, Bryan le Roux; senior: Louis Hattingh, Andy Birkett
Women u23: Kyeta Purchase, Jenna Ward; senior: Kyeta Purchase, Jenna Ward
V: Richard Lowe, Jason Ekstrand and Zoog Haynes, Lance Howarth; SM: Gavin Tarr, Brian Taylor; SGM: Bruce Wenke, Linton Hope; GM: Allan Hold, Geoff Thompson; SGGM: Richard Venniker, Tups Tupper; GGM: Bevin Worlock, Willem Deyzel
V: Kim Peek, Marion Young: SM: Helen Marsh, Vanessa Mayhew; M: Solly Peckett, Merrill King,