Natal Canoe Club hosted their Annual Prize-giving this week, with some of South Africa’s leading paddling luminaries being named among the winners, including Andy Birkett as Paddler of the Year, and Abby Solms and Bridgitte Hartley as the joint-winners of the Lady Paddler of the Year.
Birkett extended his outstanding record in the FNB Dusi to six victories after teaming up with Lance Kime to take the win in February, while his 2015 results included claiming the South African canoe marathon K1 title for a first time as he edged out multiple world champion Hank McGregor at Camps Drift.
Birkett also received the John Oliver Dusi Dice Award for his outstanding results and commitment to the Thursday dices that are so important, not only to the performance of NCC’s paddlers, but to NCC’s fantastic success as a sociable, welcoming club to all.
For Solms, the past year was about claiming the one major river title she had not yet added to her impressive racing CV – the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon.
Joining forces with canoe marathon world champ and regular visitor to NCC, Anna Kožíšková, she made no mistake in securing that first win, have previously finished as runner-up on six occasions.
Solms and Kožíšková dominated from start to finish and crossed the line at Blue Lagoon in Durban over 33 minutes ahead of the runners-up, Tamika Haw and Alex Adie.
Hartley, meanwhile, confirmed her status as the best sprinter on the African continent by ruling the roost at the African Sprint Canoe Championships, which took place at Shongweni, claiming the K1 200m, 500m, and 5 000m titles.
The Junior Woman Paddler of the Year Award went to Donna Hutton, who proved herself the best junior sprinter in South Africa with a superb season.
She also contested three senior K2 events at the African Championships with Hartley, coming away with wins in the 200m and 500m, and a silver medal in the 1 000m.
The Kevin Culverwell Trophy, for the Junior Paddler of the Year, was shared by Maritzburg College’s Kelly Tarr and Siyabonga Hlophe, whose performances have earned him a prestigious place on the Macsteel Maestros programme, along with fellow NCC paddler, Fikile Sibisi.
Louis Hattingh demonstrated his all-round ability by excelling in sprinting on the World Cup circuit and in the African Championships. Then, when he turned his focus to marathon racing, he and Andy Birkett booked their place in the South African team to take part in the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Brandenberg, Germany, by winning the K2 title at the SA Champs. He was presented with the LD Champion prize for the most points at the prize-giving.
Letho Luthuli, who placed fourth in the Dusi with Mongezi Thusi and 52nd overall, was presented with the Development Trophy.
The Gudgie Dixon Award for the Most Improved Junior went to the Croudace sisters, Jessica and Katie, who have come on in leaps and bounds, and who have truly put Pietermaritzburg Girls High paddling on the map.
Melissa van Rooyen was a worthy winner of Spearman Trophy for the Most Improved Lady Paddler after coming away from the South African Canoe Marathon Championships as a national title winner of both the K1 and K2 titles in the sub-vet category.
Ian Oliver put in a great effort in training for the Dusi and was duly rewarded when he and Kevin Musgrave were the first sub-vets to finish in 50th place overall. He won the SA Naval Association’s Most Improved Paddler Award.
Mike Eglington, who has been a star, always willing to help out, received the GV Price Chairman’s Award and the Patch and Di Starr Sportsman Award for Fellowship went to barman Sherwin “Shrek”.