2018 sees changing of the guard in canoe marathon

The two biggest names in the history of ICF canoe marathon picked up gold medals in 2018, but it wasn’t in the events fans had become use to seeing them dominate.

Hungary’s Renata Csay and South Africa’s Hank McGregor are the two biggest legends in the sport, and in Portugal they both added another gold medal to their healthy collection.

This time they shared the moment with their respective K2 partners, on the final day of the 2018 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Prado Vila Verde, Portugal.

McGregor, a seven-time individual champion, clocked up his fourth K2 title, teaming up for the first time with Andy Birkett to hold out Hungary’s Adrian Boros and Laszlo Solti, with Spain’s Miguel Llorens and Luis Perez finishing third.

And Hungarian canoe marathon legend Csay chalked up her 12th K2 world championship gold medal and her 19th title overall in a mesmerising performance at Prado Vila Verde.

41-year-old Csay teamed up with 22-year-old Zsofia Czellai-Voros to blitz the women’s field, finishing almost three minutes ahead of Spain’s Eva Barrios and Amaia Osaba, with another Spanish crew, Tania Alvarez and Tania Fernandez, finishing third.

Renata Csay Zsofia Czellai-Voros Hungary K2 world marathon 2018

The 2018 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships heralded the start of a new era for the sport. With McGregor opting not to contest the individual K1, and Csay failing to qualify, the door was open for the next generation.

South Africa’s Andy Birkett and Hungary’s Vanda Kiszli boldly charged through, winning what could be the first of many world titles.

Birkett timed his K1 race to perfection to hold off Hungary’s Adrian Boros, with fellow South African Jasper Mocke third.

“I’ve been giving marathons a go for a few years now, trying to get onto the top step,” Birkett said.

“It almost feels unreal being there today. The first thing I thought about was going home and seeing my baby boy, which is quite a weird feeling.

“There are so many strong guys out there, you have to look over your shoulder all the time. The pace was quite hot at times, other times it was super slow.

“I just tried not to get complacent and focussed on the goals ahead.”

South Africa Andy Birkett K1 world marathon 2018

Kiszli finished second in last year’s world championships, and was not leaving anything to chance in Portugal.

The leading K1 pack ranged in size from four to nine, with Kiszli pulling away on the final lap to finish well ahead of Hungarian teammate and K2 partner, Sara Mihalik.

“Gold is always better than silver,” Kiszli said.

“It was a hard race for me because I always worried I might fall in the water. So I pushed hard and just tried to stay with the girls.

“I try to just focus on myself and not the others. We tried to work together as a group, and it’s easy because Sara and I know each other well.”

Hungary Vanda Kiszli K1 world marathon 2018

In the C1 competitions, Spain’s Manuel Campos held off a spirited challenge from teammate Manuel Garrido to win his third world title, while Ukraine’s Liudmyla Babak proved once again she is without peer in the women’s C1.

Campos won titles in 2012 and 2014 and has not finished outside the top three since 2009. The absence of four-time Hungarian world champion, Marton Kover, opened the door for the Spaniard.

“I’m very happy to have won my third world title,” Campos said.

“It’s been a little wait for a few years, but I have been working very hard for these championships. Today was a hard race.”

Babak won last year’s C1 world title by more than three minutes, and while Saturday’s result was closer, the Ukrainian was never in doubt.

“This was a difficult race, but I had trained hard for it,” Babak said.

The 2020 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships will be contested in Shaoxing, China.

2018 magazine
#ICFcanoemarathon #canoemarathon