Stott powers to 8th Croc title
Ant Stott (Tammy Vanderwagen/Gameplan Media)
Mbombela - Overnight leader Ant Stott continued his domination of the 50th anniversary of the Lowveld Croc Canoe Marathon as he powered to victory by over a minute over Gauteng’s Jacques Theron which becomes the paddling ace’s eighth victory in the race.
Despite the race doubling as the Gauteng K1 River Marathon trials Theron and his fellow locals were unable powerless in their efforts to reel in the KZN based star who, despite a couple of mistakes, was simply unstoppable throughout the two days of hard-fought river racing and ultimately went on to claim a memorable victory.
“A couple of my Lowveld Croc titles have been in SA titles as well so those are always special but other than those I’d say this one probably means the most to me,” said Stott.
“Paddling hasn’t been my main priority for the past two years with me having to spend a lot more time trying to setup my business so to a major race win at this stage of my career when I’m probably not going to be racing competitively for too much longer, obviously means a lot to me,” he added.
Having raced to an overnight lead of over one and a half minutes Stott was well aware that second placed Theron and defending champ were eager to close the gap as quickly as possible over the short day two course however Stott dug deep to fend off their challenges.
“It was another good day out there for me, there was good water but it’s a section of river we haven’t been able to do too many times in the past because of the hippo so it was quite tough out there,” said Stott.
“Again my lines were a bit rusty, probably even more so than yesterday, and I ended up taking the slower channel quite few times today and with every wrong line I took I knew Jacques (Theron) was just eating away at my lead.”
“By about halfway Jacques (Theron) had closed the gap to about a minute and that’s when I knew I really had to go for it”
“Just after halfway though we came across a couple hippo but Paul Hay had been there already and taped it all off so we just hoped out and portaged around it and then I really tried to put the hammer down and fortunately I could hold Jacques (Theron) off until the finish,” he added.
For Theron it was a bitter sweet end to the two day affair as the paddling veteran narrowly missed out on claiming a rare victory on home soil.
“It was a good two days for me and I’m still very happy with my race,” said Theron. “There was a really good field here this year and to have beaten a guy like Andy (Birkett) and come second to Ant (Stott) is an honour. The best aspect is just to be on this river and coming second is just a bonus.”
“Physically I felt a lot better this morning than I did yesterday which counted in the first ten kilometres. There were some really interesting channels in that first stretch and I didn’t make any mistakes and I managed to get to within about a minute of Ant (Stott) but this race isn’t finished after the first ten kilometres and unfortunately I didn’t quite have enough strength left in the arms to catch Ant (Stott).”
“My strategy this morning was always to give it a go but the arms were just a bit too heavy towards the end there. I also had Andy (Birkett) behind me though and it’s hard to keep him down so I knew I had to keep going.”
“Congratulations to Ant. He paddled superbly and showed us all he’s still got it!” he added.
Despite having finished two places down on his last year’s effort third place finisher Andy Birkett (Team Best 4 Kayak Centre) emerged from the water without a hint of regret of frustration but rather his boyish enthusiasm for paddling abundantly clear to all on the banks.
“I didn’t swim,” he splurted out before anyone could get a congratulatory word in. “I tried to keep it as consistently paced as I could and I think I closed the gap between Jacques (Theron) and I quite a bit but hats off to both Jacques (Theron) and Ant (Stott), they out classed me on both days.
“I’m not disappointed at all. Ant (Stott) has a huge reputation and I have a lot of respect for him, especially on this river.”
“I messed up a little yesterday which cost me a bit but I’m still happy with the result and I would far sooner finish third in a strong field like it was today than win it when all the guys aren’t here,” he added.
Mike Smith and Theron’s regular K2 partner Piers Cruickshanks rounded out the top five whilst it was a one woman show from start to finish in the ladies’ race as Jen Theron cruised to a commanding victory by over twenty-six minutes and an impressive sixteenth place finish overall.
“I didn’t have any swims,” laughed Theron after he forgettable start to day one. “But I made about five hilarious mistakes today which probably make up for not swimming.”
“I think yesterday made me quite tired and today I wasn’t quite concentrating as well as I could have been. At one stage I just slammed straight into not a rock but a massive cliff face, nose first.”
“I also managed to trip twice on the hippo portage and face planted into the ground both times. I’m not sure if those maybe count as land swims.”
“At one stage I even had to get out my boat, turn it around and carry on paddling because I just got it all so wrong than I was facing in completely the wrong directions. It was just a comedy of errors,” she added hysterically.
Despite being out on her own from the word go Theron will take a lot out of the victory and will add it to the rest of her results in a year which will surely be one to cherish in years to come.
“I’m really stoked. I wasn’t able to race the girls I have been racing throughout the season this weekend which meant I had to move the challenge to racing the guys around me,” said Theron.
“It’s great though to have won the Berg and now the Croc this year because both require very different skills.”
“The Fish is obviously the big one now and a top three would be great but for now I’m just going to enjoy what really has been a great weekend on the Lowveld,” she added.
Maritzburg College matric pupil Murray Haw claimed the junior title whilst Damon Stamp was the first under 16 across the line.
“It was such fun,” said Haw. “It’s like the Drak on steroids. The rapids are more technical and bigger than Drak but the whole course is very makeable.”
“It’s a great race for us guys from KZN to begin the season with again because it gets you used to the river again very quickly and really sharpens your river skills especially before Fish.”
“It was really great to have won it this year and I’ll definitely be back again next year,” he added.
In their first year of involvement in the race title sponsors Sasol gave a positive and commendable message to the organisers and participants alike as together everyone celebrated the race’s 50th anniversary.
“It has been rewarding to be part of this year’s Sasol Lowveld Croc Canoe Marathon. The race’s technical challenges, level of difficulty and unique setting attracted some of the best canoe racers in the country marking the 50th anniversary,” said Acting General Manager of Sasol Secunda Corporate Affairs, Issac Modise.
“As key sponsors this initiative is aligned to our strategy of promoting conservation and developing an understanding of responsible water management,” he added.Summary of results:Day 2
1.Ant Stott 1.40.25 3.34.16
2.Jacques Theron 1.39.58 3.35.27
3.Andy Birkett 1.40.59 3.39.21
4.Mark Smith 1.43.57 3.44.21
5.Piers Cruickshanks 1.47.11 3.49.57
6.Mike Arthur 1.52.31 3.52.28
7.Gavin Shuter 1.47.10 3.52.34
8.Roger Mortlock 1.47.40 3.52.37
9.Shaun Griffin 1.52.32 3.54.23
10.Adrian Bam 1.48.35 3.54.47
11.Carl Folscher 1.52.45 3.57.34
12.Gustav Smook 1.52.03 3.57.48
13.Murray Haw 1.50.49 3.59.05
14.Anthony Baird 1.52.04 4.03.12
15.Damon Stamp 1.50.46 4.03.13
16.Jen Theron 1.55.07 4.08.34
17.Gavin Tarr 1.54.31 4.08.40
18.Gerhard Nel 1.56.04 4.09.11
19.Dewald Hattingh 1.55.19 4.09.42
20.Gerhard Steyn 1.56.47 4.10.55Women
1.Jen Theron 1.55.07 4.08.34
2.Debbie Germiquet 2.09.49 4.34.49
3.Janet Bartlet 2.42.04 6.00.55