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Van der Walt wins Drak event

2013-01-20 19:41
Grant van der Walt (Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media)
Underberg - An action packed weekend on the mighty Umzimkulu River for the 20th edition of the Drak Challenge was one to remember for under-23 world marathon champ Grant van der Walt as he earned his first senior singles river marathon title when he narrowly outsprinted Len Jenkins on Sunday's second and final stage and in so doing smashed the men's overall and second stage records by eleven and twenty minutes respectively.

The win will be one the Team Best 4 Kayak Centre athlete with treasure for many years to come having worked his way through the ranks over the past few years, under the guidance of none other than Hank McGregor with pace of two day contest set to be a topic of conversation for years to come as no fewer than 26 K1s crossed the line in times quicker than the previous overall record.

"I'm just super stoked!" said an elated van der Walt. "It was an awesome couple of days of racing and the have won is amazing!"

"It's also really special to have won my first here at the Drak. The Drak has been my favourite race since I raced it for the first time seven years ago so to have won here, in the twentieth year, is awesome!"

"I’s always nice when Hank and I race against each other and it was unfortunate he wasn't here but I'm just chuffed with the win and am looking forward to the next K1 race that we can hopefully have a good race against each other," he added.

Having started side by side the lead pair were soon joined by Brandon van der Walt (Team Jeep) and Donavan Wewege and the four boat group watched each other closely until the compulsory portage at Mineshaft Weir saw things shaken up quite abruptly.

Jenkins made his move shortly before the compulsory portage and had soon opened up a significant lead shortly after the put in.

"Len put in first and really worked hard to get away from there. I unfortunately got a bit stuck as I tried to put in which cost me about thrity seconds and when I looked up Len was almost out of sight," said van der Walt.

"Len was really working hard to really get away after that but fortunately I managed to pretty much hold the gap but kept losing a little bit more on the poirtages."

"I was faced with either settling for second place or really dig deep and try go for the win. I just put my head down and gave it a go and finally managed to catch Len with about a kilometer to go."

"I then edged ahead in the final rapid and was able to finish a couple lengths ahead of Len and I'm just super stoked to have won!" he added.

Three times Drak winner Jenkins had to settle for his third consecutive Drak Challenge second place, having finish behind McGregor in 2011 and 2012.

He will however take confidence from his performance, espcially ahead of The Unlimited Dusi in just a few weeks' time.

The younger of the two van der Walt brothers came home to claim the final step on the podium and in so doing also secured a first ever having never set foot on a river marathon podium in the senior category.

"It’s fantastic to have got my first podium ever!" said an equally delighted van der Walt. "It’s a new year and I've got new motivation and I'm stoked with how everything went this weekend!"

"Len is in unbelievable form ahead of Dusi and my brother is also so strong so to have finished third behind them - things couldn't have gone better for me," he added.

Under 23 newcomer Donavan Wewege (Team Best 4 Kayak Centre) claimed the surprise result of the weekend finishing fourth overall with Gauteng based veteran Jacques Theron rounding out the top five.

Other notable movers in the men's field on day two were Dusi podium hopeful Lance Kime, who made up for his two day one swims finishing sixth. Outside of the top three it was multiple Drak winner Ant Stott (Team Matelec) who posted the fastest time of the day in the men's top 20 as he rose from eleventh to seventh and under 23 paddler Gavin Shuter also snuck into the top ten.

Czech Republic marathon paddler Jakub Adam also had an impressive second day's performance moving up from twentieth to fourteenth overall.

The women's race was once again dominated by Team Best 4 Kayak Centre team mates Abby Adie and Robyn Kime with Adie coming out trumps for the third time in four years and in the process smashed the women's second stage and overall records by seventeen and thirty seven minutes respectively and also claimed a hugely impressive top twenty finish overall.

Kime erased Adie's overnight lead of thirty three seconds by halfway through the 38km second stage and the pair continued side by side until shortly before Heaven and Hell Rapid which saw Kime have a contest ending swim and handed Adie the title.

"Robs and I had a brilliant race and I'm obviously very happy to have won," said Adie. "The fact that we were together for much of the race and that I could stay with her when she tried to get away was also a big confidence booster ahead of Dusi."

"It was a shame Robs swam towards the end there because she was probably the stronger of the two of us on the day but I guess, like I said yesterday, it came down to making the least mistakes and fortunately that's what I was able to do."

"It’s also great to have won after yesterday was pretty stressful with all the changes and the really big water but the delay was actually probably a good thing because it just prepared us a bit for the changed starting sequence on day three of Dusi and the big water also probably played into my hands quite nicely because Robs is probably stronger on the flats than I am but, especially having learned quite a bit from Hilary (Pitchford), I'm probably a bit stronger in big water," she added.

After Michelle Eder and Jen Theron spent much of the second stage together both paddlers swam at the same rapid however Theron was able to regather herself and cross the line in third position whilst Burn was forced to withdraw from the race.

Under 23 paddlers Brittany Petersen and Jenna ward rounded out the women's top five.

Having been disallowed to paddle on Saturday's heaving river the junior members of the field welcomed the return action on Sunday's second stage and it was one, two, three for Maritzburg College in the junior boys race as Louis Hattingh, Damon Stamp and Travis Wilson claimed all three spots on the podium whilst Epworth's Bianca Haw walked away with thle junior girls' spoils.

It was a memorable two days for different reasons for many of the more than nine hundred entrants of this year's race however the twentieth anniversary celebrations were heightened further when Pope's Canoe's Owen Hemmingway crossed the line having completed all twenty editions of the event.

"The first one definitely sticks in the memory but this one, having made it through yesterday's massive river, is probably just as special considering it was probably even a bit bigger than it was in the first race in 1994," said Hemmingway.

"I was only happy once I got under the final bridge just before the finish line because with the river being so full so much can happen at any stage."

"The first ten kilometers yesterday was like one long Soutpans and it was just about trying to stay in the boat which I fortunately managed to do," he added.

More information can be found at www.drak.co.za.

Summary of results:

Overall
1.Grant van der Walt (U23) 2.00:26 3.15:48
2.Len Jenkins 2.00:37 3.16:00
3.Brandon van der Walt (U23) 2.02:29 3.18:14
4.Donavan Wewege (U23) 2.04:14 3.20:10
5.Jacques Theron 2.04:49 3.21:29
6.Lance Kime (U23) 2.03.31 3.22:22
7.Ant Stott 2.03.26 3.22:43
8.Carl Folscher 2.04.41 3.22:46
9.Shaun Griffin 2.05:09 3.23:13
10.Gavin Shuter (U23) 2.03:37 3.24:05
11.Murray Starr (U23) 2.05:14 3.24:07
12.Oliver Burn 2.07:05 3.25:59
13.James Speed (U23) 2.06:41 3.28:33
14.Owen Gandar (U23) 2.08:51 3.29:11
15.Jakub Adam (CZE) 2.08:25 3.30:20
16.David Chaplin 2.11:36 3.31:00
17.Gavin Tarr 2.11:07 3.32:03
18.Andrew Neal 2.10:06 3.32.04
19.Abby Adie (Women) 2.09:00 3.32:07
20.Murray Haw (U23) 2.12:18 3.33:12

Women
1.Abby Adie (U23) 2.09:00 3.32:07
2.Robyn Kime (U23) 2.10:45 3.34:24
3.Jen Theron 2.17:18 3.44:26
4.Brittany Petersen (U23) 2.25:14 3.58:48
5.Jenna Ward (U23) 2.24:31 4.02:30

U23 Men
1.Grant van der Walt (U23) 2.00:26 3.15:48
2.Brandon van der Walt (U23) 2.02:29 3.18:14
3.Donavan Wewege (U23) 2.04:14 3.20:10

U23 Women
1.Abby Adie (U23) 2.09:00 3.32:07
2.Robyn Kime (U23) 2.10:45 3.34:24
3.Brittany Petersen (U23) 2.25:14 3.58:48

Junior Boys
1.Louis Hattingh 2.06:49
2.Damon Stamp 2.07.00
3.Travis Wilson 2.08:19

Junior Girls
1.Bianca Haw 2.19:50
2.Sarah Harries 2.36:06
3.Camilla Pennefather 2.46:44
 
 

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