Adventure Sport

Couple add spice to Berg

2011-07-06 21:11
Jacques Theron (File)
Cape Town - Top Gauteng racers Jacques Theron and Jen Hodson lodged late entries for the Windhoek Berg river canoe marathon that starts on 13 July, substantially upping the ante in both the men's and women's title races.

Theron was a dominant figure in the race at the turn of the millennium, and won back to back titles in 2002, 2003 and 2004, while his girlfriend Jen Hodson is a top class racer and part of the successful women's K4 crew that raced into the 500m A final of the Olympic Games in Beijing.

Hodson stunned the canoeing world by officially retiring from sprinting last month, and will now channel her considerable talent into the four day, 243km challenge of the Berg, a far cry for the 500m events that she has starred in over the past few years.

Theron and Hodson have been dating for many years now, and Hodson made up her mind to enter the race after seconding her boyfriend at the recent Swartland marathon.

"There is such a great vibe about the Windhoek Berg this year, and it was quite infectious at the Swartland," says Hodson. "That's when I decided to try something different."

"My base is there but I haven't been doing the mileage," says Hodson. "I know I am going to suffer, and I hope I will be able to finish the third day, but it will be fun to see how far my training will take me."

Hodson has been doing a crash course in long distance paddling, and after two three hour sessions on the Vaal and the Klip rivers, she has had a blunt reminder of her one and only Berg, in forgiving flooded conditions in 2001.

"That year was great but I was one of the paddlers that went the wrong way near Grensplaas and took an hour to find the river again. I hope I remember where that correct channel is!"

"The world of canoeing is changing and I felt like I had got about as far as I could go," says Hodson. "The Windhoek Berg is such fun, and I didn't want to be stuck on the bank watching my boyfriend."

Theron is also downplaying his chances in the race. "A top six would be brilliant and I'd be pleased with a top ten finish," said Theron. "I have not really put in the hours between my work and travelling with Jen (Hodson) to Europe for the sprints races."

"In fact I wouldn't even be on that entry list if it hadn't been for two good friends and Berg legends Robbie Herreveld and Graeme Monteith who insisted that I was there," he added.
Theron showed glimpses of his form at the recent Swartland where he finished eighth, racing alongside his friends Monteith and Herreveld, with whom he has now entered a team together with another top Gauteng paddler Mike Stewart.

Monteith's win in 1989 started a decade of dominance in the race by Gauteng paddlers, as first Mark Perrow, then Robbie Herreveld and Michael Cheeseman took a stranglehold on the title until 2000.

"Its been hard work but getting together with the guys - I haven't seen Graeme Monteith for ten years - has been such a pleasure."

Theron fondly recalls the days of the domination of the Gauteng contingent, even if it didn't always go his way. "I remember one occasion after I had raced really well on the first day feeling the full force of the Gauteng dominance and coming off second best, dropping down from second to twelfth after a tough day on the river."

Theron and Hodson add extra spice to the race, and with their combination of experience and fitness, they will be factors to be reckoned with. But Theron graciously admits that defending champion Hank McGregor will take a lot of beating.

"He is in such magnificent form right now that it is going to take a special effort from someone to be able to beat him," says Theron.

The 50th celebrations of this famous 4 day 243km race from Paarl to Port Owen has already attracted a massive field, and late entries, like Theron and Hodson's continue to pour into the race HQ.

The Berg River Canoe Marathon takes place from 13 to 16 July 2011, preceded by a time trial on 12 July.

Read more on:    berg river canoe marathon  |  paarl

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