Argentinian Franco Balboa paddled a tactically perfect race to break the dominance of the potent Hungarian outfit – and also provided some heartbreak to local fans – to win the men’s U23 event, the final event of Friday’s action at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships taking place at Camps Drift.

After Hungary has once again notched up four wins from the opening four events of the second day’s racing on Friday to keep their 100% winning record intact, Balboa finally broke their stranglehold with a mix of guile, conservative and unconventional tactics.

South Africa’s Nick Notten was the surprise package of the event as he stepped up to claim the silver medal and provide the vocal local supporters with plenty to shout about after Jean van der Westhuizen, a strong contender for a medal before the event, fell out in a clash of boats among the lead group on the first lap.

Balboa was conspicuous by his decisions not to work in the group and his single-minded efforts to save energy paid off after Notten had made a brave long-range bid for gold with two of the seven laps remaining. At the end of the fourth portage, Notten found himself with a gap over the large lead group and he paddled away to a narrow but vital lead.

It took a lap for anybody to come close to the South African paddler when, after the second last portage, Balboa made use of a quick run and put in to chase the South African down over the next 500 metres. Once he caught his rival, the Argentinean gambled on Notten not wanting the chasing group to catch and did the minimum work over the next three kilometres. Then, making full use of his fresher arms he sprinted away powerfully over the final 300 metres for the gold.

"It was a really difficult race but I have trained really hard to be here," Balboa said after the race.

"The South African paddler (Nick Notten) was really strong and he got away from us which was worrying but I put in a lot of effort to catch him and get over the line in first place."

Hungary were not completely shut out of the medals with Krisztián Máthé winning the three-way battle from the chasers to claim bronze, Hungary’s 12th medal of the championships.

In the first event of the day, Hungary, started in the same way they left off on Thursday with a one-two finish in the junior women’s K2 event.

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Following on from Hungary’s victory in each of the five events on the opening day, and silver medals from three of the four medal events, Emese Kohalmi and Olga Bakó cruised home to an emphatic win in the opening event of Friday’s programme. The young Hungarian duo was two minutes 44 seconds ahead of compatriots Zsófia Korsós and Viktória Nagy, with the British pairing of Freya Peters a Emma Russell claiming the bronze two minutes further back.

In the second event of the day, the U23 men’s C1 race paddled in conjunction with the junior women’s K2, the Hungarian dominance continued. 

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Bence Dóri made the decisive break from Portugal’s Sérgio Maciel on the approaches to the final portage and then paddle away to a 35-second victory to give Hungary their seventh win of the championships. Poland’s Patryk Gluza claimed the bronze almost a minute further back.

And the Hungarians were once again the heroes in the junior men’s K2 event, but it was happiness with the cruellest of heartbreak for one of the two South African crews who formed the lead group with the Hungarian duo for all but the final 2000 metres.

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The Hungarian pair of Levente Vékássy and Varga Ádám claimed the gold when they easily dispatched local under 16s David Evans and Hamish Mackenzie – students at Maritzburg College which is situated just 200m away from the race venue.

In the end Spain’s Carlos Gómez and Miguel Sánchez took bronze, but they will be the first to admit their third place was the result of a massive stroke of good fortune, and as much as they put themselves in the position to claim the bronze, the final podium might have looked slightly different.

With about 1 500m to go, the race was a contest between the Hungarians, Evans and Mackenzie, and the second South African crew of Callam Davis and Hamish Lovemore. With a huge lead over the chase group it was just the colour of medals to be decided – until, in a cruel twist of fate, Davis’ and Lovemore’s rudder evidently “simply fell out”.

After the event Lovemore said he did not know what happened because they never hit anything floating in the water, but the pedals “just went soft”. Without any steering, the pair bravely continued and it was evidence as to how far ahead they were that the chasing group only passed the rudderless South Africans with about 350m to go.

Hungary also won the junior mens C2 race but the central European country did not add to their medal tally because the event was a non-medal event with not enough participants and countries to qualify for the awarding of medals. 

Sebestyén Simon and Dániel Fejes cruised to an easy two minute win over the French combination of Leo Dubois Dunilac and Sofiane Trousseau with Germans Arved Heine and Jonas Mode third.

The ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships will be held at Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg from 7 to 10 September 2017. More information can be found at

SUMMARY OF RESULTS - 2017 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships Day Two

Junior Women’s K2
1 Emese Kohalmi/Olga Bakó (HUN) 1:26:15
2 Zsófia Korsós/Viktória Fruzsina Nagy (HUN) 1:28:59
3 Freya Peters/Emma Russell (GBR) 1:31:19
4 Christie Mackenzie/Sabina Lawrie (RSA) 1:32:11
5 Teresa Isotta Natalia/Isabel Campana (RSA) 1:32:20

U23 Men’s C1
1 Bence Balázs Dóri (HUN) 1:54:05
2 Sérgio Maciel (POR) 1:54:40
3 Patryk Gluza (POL) 1:55:35
4 Luca Ferraina (ITA) 1:57:30
5 Zoltán Koleszár (HUN) 1:58:56

Junior Men’s K2
1 Levente Vékássy/Varga Ádám (HUN) 1:35:43
2 David Evans/Hamish Mackenzie (RSA) 1:35:52
3 Carlos Gómez/Miguel Sánchez (ESP) 1:38:01
4 Joseph Petersen/Oscar McKittrick (GBR) 1:38:03
5 Beaudoin Geniesse/Briac Labbe (FRA) 1:38:12

Junior Men’s C2 (non medal)
1 Sebestyén Simon/Dániel Fejes (HUN) 01:36:40
2 Leo Dubois Dunilac/Sofiane Trousseau (FRA) 01:38:55
3 Arved Heine/Jonas Mode (GER) 01:43:44

U23 Men’s K1
1 Franco Balboa (ARG) 1:52:53
2 Nicolas Notten (RSA) 1:53:03
3 Krisztián Máthé (HUN) 1:53:29
4 Miguel Llorens (ESP) 1:53:50
5 Jon Amund Vold (NOR) 1:54:11

Medal Table (after eight events)
                  G S B TOT
Hungary       7 4 1 12
Argentina     1 0 0 1
South Africa 0 2 2 4
Great Britain 0 1 2 3
Portugal       0 1 1 2
Spain          0 0 1 1
Poland         0 0 1 1

Weekend programme
9:00am C1 Women 19km
11:50am K1 Women 26km
12:00noon C1 Men 23km
14:45pm K1 Men 30km
9:00am K2 Women 26km
9:05am C2 Men 23km
12:00noon K2 Men 30km

ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships on social media:
Twitter: @WMC2017
Instagram: @marathonworlds
Hashtag: #WMC2017

Tim Whitfield. Pics by Balint Vekassy

Canoe Marathon