WITH the ICF World Marathon Championships just three weeks after the Hansa Golden Crisp Fish River Canoe Marathon, the race will play an integral part in the preparation of a number of the stars heading to China to do battle in the global marathon showpiece.
The Fish has been moved a week earlier this year and will take place on Friday, September 27, and Saturday, September 28, positioning it ideally as a last intensive competitive outing for the elite paddlers before they start their taper down for the World Championships, which is starting on October 17.
Adding to the looming battle on the brown waters of the Fish River, the race will also double as the South African K2 River Championships, ensuring that almost all of the countryâ€™s best K2 combinations will be at the start line to challenge for the CSA medals.
It has been confirmed that South Africaâ€™s current World Champion K2 pair of Andy Birkett and Hank McGregor will not be racing together at the Fish this year.
With the McGregor/Birkett combination not happening, the chatter in the canoeing community now centres on who will be approached by McGregor for the two-day race into Cradock.
The one combination that isnâ€™t a secret or shrouded in speculation, is the combo of Ryan and Greg Louw.
The brothers have been training hard, and have competed in both the Sella Descent in Spain and the Breede Canoe Marathon in the Western Cape, in their build up for the Fish.
Louw won the Fish in 2017 with Birkett, making him the last Eastern Cape local to win their home canoeing major, and the hero of the Cradock community in which he grew up.
From a ladiesâ€™ perspective, defending K2 champion Jenna Ward will be contesting the 2019 marathon world championships with Kyeta Purchase and the duo will pair up for their first river race together since the 2015 Fish.
Last yearâ€™s K1 champion Bridgitte Hartley will be racing in the womenâ€™s K2 race with Christie Mackenzie in Shaoxing and the pair have already lodged an entry for the Fish.
The potential combinations for this yearâ€™s national K2 championships do make for interesting reading and a mouth-watering 82km of racing from Grassridge Dam to the Cradock Sports Complex at the end of September.
For more information about the event, visit www.fishmarathon.org.za.