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Eray targets Hansa Powerade Fish to end her best season ever – Written by Dave Macleod Friday, 25 September 2009

Cradock – Cape canoeing star Michéle Eray has her sights firmly set on the Hansa Powerade Fish river canoe marathon next weekend for three reasons. She has never won the race, she regards it as the years paddling highlight, and the 82km marathon will mark the end of a long year and the start of a well earned rest.


Michéle Eray will be focusing her energies on sharpening her river skills ahead of the Hansa Powerade Fish river canoe marathon, which is also deciding the SA K1 river championships for 2009. (Justin Vellacot/ Game plan media)

The cheerful 30 year old former Plettenberg Bay resident now living in Cape Town has three second places and a third place in this key race to her credit, and wants to add the K1 title to the long list of victories that she has notched up in the past twelve months. She has been unbeaten in surf ski races since snatching international titles in Hong Kong and the lucrative Dubai Shamaal last year, and went on to win the prestigious Drakensberg Challenge on the technically demanding Umzimkulu river in February.

Eray has just jetted home after taking part in the world marathon champs, where she raced well but was unable to reproduce her medal winning performance of her last outing at that level. With the Hansa Powerade Fish deciding the SA K1 river championship titles this year, Eray is aiming for the two day event in Cradock as a final peak before a well earned rest. “It has been a long, long year, and my body is telling me that I need a break,” said Eray. “I am genuinely feeling tired but there is absolutely no way that I am going to miss this race.”

Eray will start as one of the favourites in the women’s title, alongside Czech Republic ace Katerina Vacikova and another Olympian Jen Hodson, KZN ace Tiffany Kruger and Maties student Robyn Kime, while the current national K1 marathon champion Brigitte Hartley will not be on the startline as she is holidaying in France. “It’s hard to tell who is going to be a factor in this years women’s race,” Eray added. “There will be the usual frantic dash to Keith’s Flyover, but the first day is a long, long way, and that usually sorts the contenders out.”

Eray is eyeing Vacikova with interest. The Czech wild water ace has won the K2 title twice in succession with Micha Mruskova, and is focusing on her K1 skills as she makes her singles debut on the Fish. “She will probably shoot Keith’s and make it, while a lot of other girls opt for the portage. We will have to see whether she has the distance in her after that. It’s going to be very interesting.”

Apart from the attraction of the SA championship medals, Eray has a deep seated desire to win the Hansa Powerade Fish title, particularly as she has spent much of her competitive life in the Eastern Cape. “It’s easily the best race of the year, and you can see that in the size of the entry again. But I have come second and third too often and I am a little sick of that,” she said impishly.

She will be focusing her training on river skills in the build-up to the Fish, and after a weekend training on the Bontebok, she will spend several days in Cradock preparing on the race course. “I actually haven’t been on moving water since the Drak Challenge, so that is my priority now,” said Eray. However this echoes her sentiments before the Drak this year, where her cool head and technical river skills saw her win that race on debut while all her challengers succumbed to the challenges of the mountain river. “A good result in this year’s Fish would be the perfect end to a long, long year, before I have to get to form again for the defence of my Dubai Shamaal title” said Eray. The Hansa Powerade Fish starts at Grassridge dam on Friday 2 October and ends in Cradock on Saturday 3 October.

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