Following a whirlwind few weeks that saw Andy Birkett claim the elusive K1 and K2 gold medals at the 2018 ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships, his focus has now shifted to the SA K1 River Championships at the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon from 5-6 October.
Euro Steel’s Birkett emulated good friend and K2 partner Hank McGregor when he won his first K1 marathon title and followed that up with an impressive K2 crown to become the second South African to do the double at the same world championships.
Having travelled back from Portugal and relocated to East London with wife Nikki, Birkett has finally caught his breath and managed to think about the upcoming Fish, an event that he looks forward to on an annual basis.
“Well I ordered my boat for Fish a week ago so I have started thinking about it,” he quipped from his new home in Nahoon. “I have only paddled once since Portugal and I have been sick but I will get my preparations started.
“We race so much that I don’t think that it will be an issue being ready for Fish and I look forward to a weekend in Cradock with the family, it’s such a great vibe!”
The much-publicised ‘bromance’ between Birkett and McGregor could take an interesting turn in Cradock in a few weeks as both will be hoping to get one over the other in the dash for the line; the racing will be hard but light-hearted.
“It is going to be such an awesome race against Hank. I am going to give him a lot of grief and abuse on the river and I’m sure he is going to give it straight back to me!
“We don’t get to race too many river races anymore so I am looking forward to getting back onto the river.
“There are also going to be some other tough competitors there. Stu Maclaren, Kenny Rice and Jasper Mocké are all in great form so it will be a tough race for sure,” Birkett added.
With the national K1 river championships and a first K1 Fish River Canoe Marathon title on the line, one would suspect that Birkett would be determined to win in Cradock, however the new father is not putting any pressure on himself.
“I set myself a really big goal to win at marathon worlds – that was my main focus so I won’t be disappointed if I don’t win at Fish.
“I am definitely going to go there and race as hard as I can but if that isn’t good enough, I am fine with that,” Birkett commented.
Despite the relative lack of river racing, Birkett has been spending a lot of his time broadening his paddling skills and he will continue to branch out as much as he can.
“I never want to be a paddler that paddles one discipline,” he explained. “There are so many different aspects to our sport that I try and do as much as I can whether it be river racing, flat-water marathon racing or surfski paddling, I want to try and do as much as possible.”