Durban - Following the conclusion of the recent South African Canoe Marathon Championships, Canoeing South Africa has named a strong side for the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Shaoxing, China from October 17-20.
Topped by world champions Andy Birkett and Hank McGregor, the team of seniors, under 23 and junior athletes for the trip to the Far East will include two black paddlers in Alex Masina, who won a bronze in the junior boys K1 race in 2017 at the World Champs in Pietermaritzburg, and Under 18 girl Nosipho Mthembu, who will paddle in the U18 Girls K2 race with Amy Peckett.
Marathon paddling is arguably the strongest canoeing discipline for South Africa on a global scale and they currently house the K1 and K2 men's senior World Champion in Birkett, however coming out of retirement in a K1 at the national trial was 13-time World Champion McGregor.
The veteran has won eight K1 gold medals, four K2 golds and one K2 silver medal, didn't compete in the K1 race at the 2018 World Championships but won the K2 showdown with Birkett.
Birkett got the better of the legend at the Cradle Moon Lake during the South African championships, however McGregor is as experienced as they come and will put in a strong fight for another gold medal.
With only two boats in each category qualifying the racing at the national championships is fierce and the K2 racing was no exception.
Birkett and McGregor won the race by a whisker over the young, exciting Under-23 duo of Alex Masina and Louis Hattingh.
In the senior women's class it was Bridgitte Hartley who won the national championships and will represent South Africa once again at the world champs. She will be joined by a former Under-23 medallist Jenna Ward who has shown that she is getting back to her best.
In the K2 racing at the showpiece in the East, Hartley and Christie Mackenzie will be the one senior women's crew representing South Africa while former world championship silver medallists Jenna Ward and Kyeta Purchase will be the other South African boat in the race.
The Under-23 age K1 paddlers selected to represent South Africa are, in the men's, Hamish Lovemore and 2017 junior bronze medallist Masina. In the women's category it is another former bronze medallist Christie Mackenzie and she will be joined by a returning to form Kyeta Purchase.
There is no K2 racing in the Under 23 category so paddlers are forced to race in the senior K2 age group.
The juniors is another exciting age category as they give a glimpse into the future of marathon racing in the country.
From a K1 perspective Hamish Mackenzie and Uli Hart will represent the SA U18 boys team while Amy Peckett and Georgina Howard will do battle for the U18 girls.
In the K2 category former world championship silver medallists Hamish Mackenzie and David Evans will be at their third world championships while Gustav Smook Junior and Bartho Visser will take part in their first World Championships.
The Under 18 girls K2 team sees experienced Amy Peckett teaming up with Nosipho Mthembu while Georgina Howard and Melanie Croeser will be the other South African team in the junior girls category at the World Championships.
South African Team for 2019 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships (Shaoxing, China):
Hamish Mackenzie, Ulvard Hart
Amy Peckett, Georgina Howard
Hamish Lovemore, Alex Masina
Kyeta Purchase, Christie Mackenzie
Andy Birkett, Hank McGregor
Bridgitte Hartley, Jenna Ward
David Evans, Hamish Mackenzie, Gustav Smook Jnr, Bartho Visser
Amy Peckett, Nosipho Mthembu, Georgina Howard, Melonie Croeser
Andy Birkett, Hank McGregor, Louis Hatting, Alex Masina
Christie Mackenzie, Bridgitte Hartley, Jenna Ward, Kyeta Purchase