Cradock - 2019 will be a far cry from Jenna Ward and Kyeta Purchase's
first Fish River Canoe Marathon together four years ago when they take on
the two day roller coaster from Grassridge Dam to the Cradock Sports Complex on September 27 and 28.
2015 saw Purchase taking on her first river marathon a week after she had her
appendix removed and the pair bumped, scraped and swam their way through the
82km. However with far more experience and confidence in a boat together they
will be a serious podium threat come the end of September.
Despite Purchase being a rookie and the pair having never paddled a river
marathon before they finished fourth in the women's race in 2015, a sure sign
that their partnership was going to become a strong one.
The pair is building up well for a strong shot at an ICF World Canoe Marathon
Championships gold medal in China in October and their flat-water marathon
credentials include a World Championship silver medal in Brandenburg in 2016.
"Kyeta took a break from paddling last year to focus on life saving and so we
chatted at the beginning of this year and decided to give this year's World
Champs a full go," Ward said.
"Luckily for us we click in the boat and don't need a lot of time together for
everything to fall into place.
"We have been training every morning and every evening together so we are very
comfortable. The only difference is that it will be a different boat to our
marathon boat but that won’t be too much of a problem."
The pair, under the tutelage of coach Lee McGregor, will be out for a good
confidence boost ahead of their trip to the Far East and a positive result at
the Fish will be just the tonic. Ward will be under pressure to defend the K2
Fish crown she won with Anna Kožíšková in 2017.
"Bridgitte (Hartley) and Christie (Mackenzie) will be a really good combination
and I have heard that Nikki Birkett and Amy Peckett will be teaming up as well," said Ward.
"Amy had a really good Dusi so they will be another strong crew to look out
The Fish is often a race that is diarised as early as possible by paddlers and
Ward shares that same attitude.
"I never miss the Fish!" she exclaimed. "I know it's just a few weeks before
World Marathon Champs but I would never live with myself if I was sitting back
in Durban and everyone was in Cradock!
"This year will be my twelfth Fish and I love it every year. It is such a
fantastic weekend with friends and family on an awesome river."
With its proximity to their trip to China, Ward feels that the race will be
close to the ideal send off before they leave on October 12.
"It's going to be a good chance to spend some time in the boat in race
conditions," she said.
"We'll be paddling for about three hours each day so it will also be a good
last bit of distance training before we leave."