10 September 2012
Graeme Solomon and Sean Rice scooped the SA K2 River Championship title after a thrilling win in the Breede River Canoe Marathon that ended outside Swellendam on Sunday.
It was a maiden river title for Rice, who has come into canoeing through surf lifesaving, and a third Breede title for Solomon, and one loaded with significance for him.
The winning pair had to dig deep to hold off a strong challenge in the final kilometre of the race from former marathon world champs Ant Stott and Cam Schoeman, while the third boat in the front bunch, Heinrich Schloms and Gavin White, simply had no gas in the tank to challenge for the title. They had used all their energy to catch up to the front bunch after a slow portage halfway through the race.
‘This win is very special’
“This win is very special to me for a lot of reasons,” said Solomon, whose first Breede title in 1997 with Paul Marais announced his arrival as a serious competitor.
“It is the SA K2 champs for starters and it completes a lot of unfinished business from last year, when I was hoping to win the race in what I felt was my last competitive season.”
In that race Solomon partnered Stott. After dominating the entire event they were persuaded to take a slower channel by the eventual winners.
“That was not the way I wanted my racing career to end. This year I wanted to give it my best shot and the combination with Sean Rice worked so well. He is just so powerful but short on river experience, which is where I could step in.”
‘A fantastic year’
“It’s been a fantastic year for me, with a second in the Berg and we are loving having our new daughter at home as well.”
Stott, who is a longstanding paddling partner of Solomon’s and a business partner, was quick to concede that the Solomon/Rice combination was the best boat on the water.
Schloms’ hopes of defending his title effectively ended when started struggling with the crippling “”dead leg” sciatic nerve problem that left him unable to run at the compulsory portage at Drew Bridge. “The other two boats just off took and we were left 300 metres behind,” he said.
“We didn’t have any choice but to put in a huge interval to catch the front bunch, which we did in half-an-hour, but after that we were blown and had nothing left for the end sprint,” he added.
The women’s race fell to the determined and composed new crew of Robyn Kime and Eloise Horn (nee Van Gysen) after the challenge from reunited Olympians Jen Theron and Nikki Mocke faltered.
“When Michele was forced to pull out on Friday, Peter Cole saw her tweet, and suggested Eloise to me,” said Kime. “It was a gamble that paid off because she was really strong in the boat.”
Both Kime and Horn will be part of the South African team to the World Marathon Championships in Rome in two weeks’ time.
The emotional reunion of Beijing teammates Mocke and Theron was poised for a fairytale ending after the first stage that saw them finish ahead of Kime and Horn after they had fought back from a swim at the Jonkeer low level bridge.
Fell off the bunch
On the second stage the two challengers were locked together at the compulsory portage at halfway, but as they entered the long flat stretches in a bunch of six boats Theron and Mocke fell off the bunch and could only watch as Kime and Horn disappeared out of sight.
“For some reason we really struggled on that bunch,” said Theron. “Robyn and Eloise were stronger on the day, and anyway it might have been expecting a bit too much for us to pull this one off when we last sat in a boat together in Beijing!”
Dusi champ Andy Birkett and Dewalt Hattingh won a very tight under-23 race, while the under-18 boys’ title fell to Fish Hoek lifesavers Nick Notten and Kenny Rice.
Evergreen master paddler Andre Collins became the first person to complete 35 Breede marathons, while two athletes, Willem van Riet and Rene Boehm, had the pleasure of becoming the first paddlers to race with their grandchildren.
- Graeme Solomon/Sean Rice 4:02:04
- Ant Stott/Cam Schoeman 4:02:05
- Gavin White/Heinrich Schloms 4:02:19
- Robyn Kime/Eloise Horn 4:28:06
- Jen Theron/Nikki Mocke 4:32:12
- Kim van Geysen/Jenna Ward 4:36:42
- Andy Birkett/Dewald Hattingh 4:07:41
- Joseph Williams/Ivan Kruger 4:07:54
- Pierre-Andre Rabie/Ben Biggs 4:10:13
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