With provincial K2 titles on the line and a packed month of major canoeing events looming, the race for the title at the Breede River Canoe Marathon on 7 and 8 September will see the untested combination of experienced paddlers Christie Mackenzie and Kim Van Gysen starting as the crew to beat.
Mackenzie, who rose to prominence when she won the Dusi Canoe Marathon title earlier in the year, is heading to China in October to contest for the Under-23 K1 and senior K2 titles shortly after a challenge for the title and national K2 laurels at the Hansa Fish Marathon in Cradock three weeks before.
At both of those competitions she will be racing with Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley, but with Hartley having been away on duty with the national sprint team at the African Championships, Mackenzie has had to look around for another partner for the Breede outing.
“Kim approached me to do a dice with her and then asked if I was keen to do the Breede with her as Bridgitte (Hartley) is away on the Breede weekend,” said Mackenzie.
“That dice went really well and I like how determined she is in a racing situation,” she added, saying that the responsibility of driving the boat from the front seat will fall on Van Gysen’s shoulders.
“Kim knows the river well, and though it isn’t too technical, her knowledge of the stages mean’s she can make all the decisions.
“I am feeling really confident in her ability and determination, so I am looking forward to the race.”
“I also haven’t sat in the back of a K2 since I was at school so it will take a bit of getting used to,” she added.
Van Gysen finished third in the recent Bamboo Warehouse Push And Pull Paddle three day race, and is enjoying a solid return to racing form.
The pair will have a distinct advantage over many of the other K2 crew as they are light, and with very low water predicted for the race, their weight advantage will count heavily in their favour in the shallow rocky rapids and rock shelves.
“We are a light crew so if the river stays as low as it is at the moment it might actually play into our hands,” the Euro Steel/Varsity College racer said.
“She is a great person as well, and I got to know her a little better on the Push And Pull Paddle weekend,” Mackenzie added.
They will not have it all their own way as the Breede attracts a number of the region’s top women’s crews, with names like Melanie Van Niekerk, paddling with Llundudno lifesaver Christina Geromont, Lis Hart and Romy Findlay, Angie Austin and Jess Pollock and Kim Rew and Robyn van Rooyen already surfacing on the confirmed entries list.
After the Breede showdown, she will be back in the front seat of the K2 as she prepares for the dates on the Fish River and then the global K2 title decider in China, all while trying to juggle her end-of-year exams in her psychology studies.
Photo 1 Caption: Christie Mackenzie will team up with Kim Van Gysen for the first time at the Breede Marathon on 7 and 8 September. Photo: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media
Photo 2 Caption: Kim Van Gysen will team up with Christie Mackenzie for the first time at the Breede Marathon on 7 and 8 September. Photo: John Hishin/Gameplan Media
With editing by gsport