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McGregor bags record 12th Berg title

Hank McGregor sprints away to win the final stage of the 2022 Berg River Canoe Marathon on Saturday.
UNSTOPPABLE: Hank McGregor sprints away to win the final stage of the 2022 Berg River Canoe Marathon on Saturday.
Image: GAMEPLAN MEDIA/ JOHN HISHIN

Hank McGregor rewrote the record books by bagging a 12th Berg River Canoe Marathon title on Saturday, while Jenna Nisbet won her first Berg title in the women’s race.

McGregor started the final stage with more than ninety seconds in the bank over the gallant U23 Uli Hart, added the final bridge prize at the Bokkom Bungalows hotspot, and then led the fast-paced front bunch into the finish at Carinus Bridge at the Velddrif lagoon.

“When I was a kid I never imagined winning a Berg; you always dream big,” the Team Euro Steel racer from Durban said.

“To win my first one was something special. I am over the moon to win 12 now.”

“The conditions were really tough today.

“We were into a headwind right from the start and it was freezing cold, and the tide was coming in.

“We had one of the youngest fields assembled, which leaves the race in a good space going forward.

“Someone will have to win 13 titles to take over the King of the Berg title,” he said.

The women’s title was claimed by Jenna Nisbet, who was the dominant force in the women’s race through the four days, keeping East London’s defending champion, Nikki Birkett, at bay on a final stage in which she battled to find top form.

“It wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be,” Nisbet, who is using the race as part of her preparations for the world marathon championships in Portugal at the end of September, said.

“When I started the body didn’t respond as I had hoped and it took me a while to get going.

“I just had to stay with Nikki [Birkett] today. She was so strong and pulled most of the way.

“What was going through my mind was that if I did get dropped she could make up time very easily, so that my main goal was just not to get dropped.

“I certainly couldn’t have done it without Hank [McGregor].

“He has been absolutely incredible with training and tripping, advice during the race and even lending me his boat.”

Nisbet’s 16-place finish is also a new mark for best overall result for a female paddler.

After three days of sublime midwinter weather the early arrival of the cold front made conditions tough for the paddlers over the final 560km stage from Zoutkloof to Velddrif, with cold weather and a strong headwind combining to create taxing paddling into the incoming tide.

The tough conditions for the final day took its toll on the field.

Six-times winner Robbie Herreveld withdrew early on in the final stage with hypothermia. — Gameplan Media


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