Birkett bows out, for now
Friends, family and members of the Border Canoe Club watched Andy Birkett set about defending his K1 World Marathon Canoe title in Shaoxing, China on Saturday. Unfortunately, it was not to be for East London's Birkett, as 22-year-old Mads Pederson from Denmark scooped top honours, crossing the line first.
Until the last 20 metres, it seemed like Birkett had paddled a perfect race when he found himself in the leading pack of four. In the frenetic jostling for a position in the final sprint, Birkett eventually bowed out in 4th place. Jose Ramalho of Portugal secured silver and bronze went to Franco Ramalho of Argentina.
Earlier in the week, South Africa's K2 (doubles) gold medal hopes were dealt a severe blow when Birkett's partner and seven-times champion, Hank McGregor, withdrew from the race owing to illness. Disappointingly, team South Africa left the championships empty handed in medals. Birkett congratulated Pederson on the win and said he looked forward to coming back stronger next year.
“Today was not my day but I still had fun racing and gave it a good go until the end,” he said. Birkett remains a nominee in this year’s SA Sports Awards alongside Olympic swimmer, Chad Le Clos and boxer Moruti Mthalane in the category Sportsman of the Year. The awards will take place at a gala dinner on November 10.