Door wide open for new Berg women’s victor

July 3, 2014 at 8:52am
A new name will be etched onto the women’s trophy for the Berg River Canoe Marathon from Paarl to Velddrif from 16-19 July following the news that last year’s champion Jenna Ward has been kept off the start line by international sprinting commitments, setting the scene for a thrilling race for the women’s laurels.

Ward, together with Kerry Segal, Brittany Petersen and Melanie van Niekerk, departs on Sunday 13 July for Szeged, Hungary ahead of this year’s ICF Junior & Under-23 Canoe Sprint World Championships and so will relinquish the opportunity to try defend the title she clinched at the Western Cape’s river major last year.

“I’m really excited to be going over to Hungary for World Champs but it is still obviously a little bit disappointing that it means I will miss this year’s Berg, especially after winning it last year,” said Ward.

“Last year it was just Lee (McGregor) and I from our MacSquad training group that raced Berg but this year there is a really big group going down and so it’s tough to hear them all talking about it at training at the moment knowing that I won’t be there.

“I guess when they’re all hurting during the race and I’m over in Hungary then I’ll be quite happy I’m not there,” she chuckled.

Ward was quick to point out that the women’s field gathering for 2014 showdown is exponentially stronger than the one Ward toppled last year and a tight tussle is in store for all who will be there.

“The girls’ competition this year will be really tough!” said Ward. “There are some really top girls who I’ve heard will be there and there will also be far more girls on the line than last year so I think it was always going to be a great race this year regardless of whether I was there or not.”

Ward’s absence opens the doorway for 2013 runner-up Kirsten Penderis (AQRate) to once again stake a claim for the women’s spoils.

Penderis, who was narrowly outlasted by Ward in the dying stages of last year's race, will however be up against it as the likes of fellow Western Cape paddler Bianca Beavitt and Ward’s MacSquad training partners Nicole Russell, Hayley Arthur and Lauren Felgate look to get in on the act as well.

Arthur in particular has enjoyed some sublime form of late since making the transition to canoeing and surfski from her previous paddling love, rowing while Ward’s regular training partner and recently crowned South African Surfski Champ Nicole Russell, is another of McGregor’s charges eager to add her name to the women’s title challengers and podium hopefuls mix.The Berg River Canoe Marathon starts in Paarl on 16 July and ends at Velddrif on 19 July.