TEN-TIME ICF Canoe Marathon World Champion, and defending K1 and K2 world champ, Hank McGregor hung up his K1 paddles to concentrate on winning another K2 title with Andy Birkett as well as focusing on his surfski paddling.
The most decorated paddler in the marathon discipline capped off a phenomenal 2017 World Championships in Pietermaritzburg where he gave the huge crowd what they wanted on the Saturday beating Andy Birkett and Hungarian Adrian Boros in an exciting end sprint to claim his ninth world title, and seventh K1 world crown.
“After last year’s climax of winning both singles and doubles at home I pretty much felt that I achieved all that I could achieve in marathon racing. I didn’t even contemplate racing marathons this year but after paddling Dusi with Andy (Birkett) we got talking about maybe doing marathons together. He understood when I said I didn’t have plans to race marathon and wanted to put all my focus into surfski paddling because there are a lot of good races and titles to win; there may be a bit of unfinished business for me in surfski paddling,” the Euro Steel/Gara Racing Paddles start commented.
Birkett and McGregor won a thrilling race for the men’s K2 title at the South African Marathon Championships on Sunday afternoon, ratifying their selection as part of the national canoeing team to the world championships in Portugal in September.
The current world number one and two held a steely grip on a thrilling fast-paced five boat duel for the podium places and, more importantly, the two berths in the national team.
Getting back into a K2 took a bit of give and take from both parties and they plan to paddle in a K2 together a few times this year.
“It was a bit of a 50/50 deal between Andy and myself. I said that I would race K2 on the condition that Andy races the Sella Descent in Spain with me. It is a race that I would like to tick off and he was quick to take up the offer,” he added with a chuckle.
Birkett was thrilled with the win. “It was awesome racing with Hank, and it leaves me so excited to go on and race our hearts out at the Sella Descent and then the worlds in Portugal,” said Birkett.
Having been at the top of the marathon racing world for such a long time, the decision to give up the individual discipline came quite easily for McGregor.
“Everyone asks if you just know when to quit, but I don’t think you ever quite know, it just comes from within. Last year I made up my mind that if I won in Maritzburg I was pretty much done and I wanted to win the race in my fashion. When I stood on the podium after the K1 race I had a bit of a tear because I was thinking that this would be the last time. I made a promise to myself and now it is time for me to focus on other things,” he explained.
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