Birkett has job ahead for fifth consecutive Drak Challenge title

World champions and Olympians will be among the starters for the 25th edition of the two-day N3TC Drak Challenge canoe marathon in the foothills of the Southern Drakensberg in South Africa this weekend.

Current ICF Canoe Marathon silver medallist and South African Andy Birkett is the defending champion, having won the last four races, but he will have to deal with the entire podium from the last world championships if he wants to extend his winning streak to five consecutive titles.

On the startline will be ten-times marathon world champion Hank McGregor and Hungarian Adrián Boros, while other former champions like Ant Stott, Grant and Brandon van der Walt are all eager to race into a top position.

If Boros wins, he will becoming the second international champion of the event, following the 2007 win by German star Max Hoff.

The women’s race is just as competitive, a reflection of the soaring standard and interest in paddling in South Africa at the moment.

London Olympics bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley is eager to go one better than her second place last year, but the strongest field in many years will complicate that challenge substantially.

Dutch sprint, marathon and wild water international Eef Haase will be making her debut in the event, hoping to use the few days in the region to get to know the 65km route.

The race is unique in that it’s character is entirely dependent on rainfall in the mountains. With South Africa in the grips of a three year long drought, the river is running low and the race may even be shortened if the rains don’t arrive on time, as has happened three times in the past 25 years.

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Canoe Marathon