Johannesburg - Graeme Solomon and Sean Rice scooped the South African 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.
Solomon and Rice had to dig deep to hold off a strong challenge in the final kilometre of the race from former marathon world champions Ant Stott and Cam Schoeman.
The third boat in the front bunch Heinrich Schloms and Gavin White simply had no gas in the tank to challenge for the title after having used all their energy to catch back up to the front bunch after a slow portage halfway through the race.
"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 was partnering Stott and after dominating the entire race they were persuaded to take a slower channel by the eventual winners.
"That was not the way I wanted my racing career to end," he said.
"This year I wanted to give it my best shot and the combination with Sean Rice worked so well."
Stott, who is a long-standing 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 he 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 took off and we were left 300 metres behind," said Schloms.
"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 in the tank."
The women's race fell to the determined and composed new crew of Robyn Kime and Eloise Horn (ne Van Gysen) after the challenge from reunited Olympians Jen Theron and Nikki Mock finally faltered.
The reunion of Beijing team-mates Mock and Theron was poised for a fairy tale ending after the first stage that saw them finish ahead of Kime and Horn.
Dusi champion Andy Birkett and Dewalt Hattingh won a 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.
1 Graeme Solomon/Sean Rice 4:02:04
2 Ant Stott/Cam Schoeman 4:02:05
3 Gavin White/Heinrich Schloms 4:02:19
4 Greg Louw/Ryan Louw 4:05:17
5 Simon van Geysen/Jayden Alford-Loots 4:05:18
6 Ernest van Riet/Edgar Boehm Jnr 4:05:19
7 Jacques Theron/Piers Cruickshanks 4:07:40
8 Andrew Birkett/Dewald Hattingh 4:07:41
9 Joseph Williams/Ivan Kruger 4:07:54
10 Pierre-Andre Rabié/Ben Biggs 4:10:13
1 Robyn Kime/Eloise Horn 4:28:06
2 Jen Theron/Nikki Mocke 4:32:12
3 Kim van Geysen/Jenna Ward 4:36:42
Under 23 men
1 Andy Birkett/Dewald Hattingh 4:07:41
2. Joseph Williams/Ivan Kruger 4:07:54
3 Pierre-Andre Rabié/Ben Biggs 4:10:13
3 Lance Kime/Stuart McLaren 2:09:54.10