Robertson – Former Olympian Michèle Eray and one of women’s river paddling pacesetters Robyn Kime have formed a formidable partnership ahead of this weekend’s Breede River Canoe Marathon hoping to lead the charge in the women’s race at the event which will also crown the SA K2 River Marathon Champs for 2012.
Robyn Kime (Team Best 4 Kayak Centre) and her vastly experienced partner, Michèle Eray will go into this weekend’s Breede River Canoe Marathon as favourites to take the women’s crown. Mouton van Zyl
Having been at heart of paddling in South Africa for many years Eray has compiled an impressive list of accomplishments throughout the sprint, surfski, marathon and river marathon worlds whilst her young partner from Stellenbosch University has developed her own reputation at a rather blistering pace in recent years which, when combined together, see few crew in a similar class to them.
Surfski ace Michèle Eray will look to build on from her victory in last weekend’s Nelo Summer Surfski Challenge in Portugal when she tackles this weekend’s Breede river Canoe Marathon with Team Best 4 Kayak Centre’s Robyn Kime. Anthony Grote.
The Cape river season finale takes on a far greater significance for Eray though who, after a debilitating wrist injury left her sidelined for much of the past twelve months, has played down her chances of victory on the Breede and instead looks to continue her journey back into mainstream competition and build on the momentum she gathered through her victory at last weekend’s Nelo Summer Surfski Challenge in Portugal ahead of the World Marathon Championships in Rome, Italy less than two weeks after Breede.
“For me the Breede is great preparation for World Marathon Champs,” said Eray. “I haven’t really planned to peak at the Breede and I’m using it more as race practice but we’ll just see how things go for Robs (Kime) and I this weekend.”
“With my wrist being in a brace and a cast for so many months of this year, I think I need as much race practice as possible. I’m on my back foot a little, unfortunately, so I’ll just have to make the most of the small amount of time I have left,” she added.
For Kime (Team Best 4 Kayak Centre), the Breede presents her with yet another golden opportunity to combine with one of South Africa’s paddling greats and possibly even build on the victory she and Eray enjoyed together in the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon in 2010.
“Mich and I paddled really well together when we won the Fish together two years ago and were planning to do last year’s Fish together as well but Mich unfortunately got injured just beforehand,” explained Kime. “She’s back now though and I’m really looking forward to getting back in the boat with her again.”
“It’s been great to paddle with people such as Mich (Eray) and Abbey (Ulansky). They’re both incredibly experienced which means they usually quite calm in the boat plus they know what it takes to win so I definitely have been very privileged to have been able to paddle with both of them,” she added.
Despite their superiority on paper the pair will have their work cut out for them though throughout the two day affair as the likes Kime’s Team Best 4 Kayak Centre team mate Abby Adie and her partner Lindi-May Harmsen, Kim van Gysen and Jenna Ward and most notably two of Eray’s former Olympic K4 team mates Jen Theron (neé Hodson) and Nikki Mocké look to put in a strong performance of their own.
“It’s great to have such good competition at this year’s Breede. The ladies are all very strong and Jen (Theron) will definitely be one to look out for after her great Berg earlier this year,” said Kime. “Anyone could take it. There are a lot of unknowns out there and Mich (Eray) and I haven’t paddled together for a while so anything could happen.”
Despite having not been in a boat together since their Olympic quest in Beijing four years ago Theron and Mocké have a unique understanding of one another and together with the form that Theron showed en route to her victory in the 2011 Berg River Canoe Marathon they form a strong opposition to Eray and Kime.
“I took a bit of time off after Berg but I’m still carrying a lot of base training from then,” said Theron. “Nikki and I haven’t paddled together in a while but we did so much work together before Olympics so I don’t see that being much of a problem for us.”
“We’re going to wing it a bit for Breede but we’re such good friends and it will just be awesome to spend a couple of days in the boat with Nikki again.”
“We’ll just race our own race. We’re probably not even going to see Mich (Eray) and Robyn, they’ll probably paddle away from us right at the start,” she chuckled.
Whilst they may not be pushing for the title come the final kilometre on Sunday afternoon the veteran pairing of Robyn Henderson and Debbie Lewis will certainly be out to give it their all and won’t shy away from the hard work required during the 72km contest.
More information and results are available at www.breedemarathon.co.za
Eleventh hour Eray/Kime withdrawal rocks final Breede Canoe Marathon build-up
Robertson – As organisers, paddlers and supporters alike entered the final phase of their preparations for this weekend’s highly anticipated Breede River Canoe Marathon the event was rocked by the disappointing news that leading women’s title contenders, Michéle Eray and Robyn Kime, have been forced to withdraw from the event due to Eray being unable to shake off a lingering chest infection.
Eray, who like Kime (Team Best 4 Kayak Centre) will jet off to Rome in little over a week’s time for the World Marathon Championships, felt the risk of making the situation worse ahead of the international spectacle wasn’t worth taking and was deeply apologetic to Kime, who will now partner Eloise van Geysen, for having to make the difficult decision.
“Very bleak to have to pull out of Breede River Marathon/SA K2. Fighting off a chest infection, with World Champs v soon, I can’t risk it,” she said via social media platform, Twitter.
“Sorry to my racing partner @robynkime (Robyn Kime) to have let you down. Thanks for being so understanding and taking it in your stride,” she added moments later.
The move is a particularly disappointing one for the pair as the frustrating curse of their K2 career appears to continue. Their combination, which began so well with a memorable victory in the 2010 Hansa Fish together, has been plagued ever since with a persistent wrist injury, which saw Eray out of action for the better part of twelve months, preventing the pair from tackling the defending their Fish title in 2011, and now this.
Despite the huge disappointment though the action on the water still promises to be of international standard for this year’s Breede and will see the normally quiet farming community between the Riviersonderend and Langeberg mountains abuzz with excitement as the best doubles canoeing crews in the country tackle the race.
For the first time since 2008 the Breede will also settle the SA K2 river titles and subsequently plays host to a seeded batch sporting plenty of new combinations ready to do battle on a Breede river that has surged after last weekend’s rainstorms in the region.
The water level on the river rocketed to 200 cubic meters per second by Wednesday morning, and while it is sure to drop somewhat in the drier and warmer weather expected this weekend, there is no doubt that the close on 500 paddlers will have a fast and full river for the two day 72km race from Robertson to Kam’bati Resort on Saturday and Sunday.
New champions will be crowned in most divisions, as injuries and commitments to the world marathon championships in Rome in two weeks’ time have forced a significant number of crew reshuffles in recent weeks.
Defending champion Lance King was another top contender forced to withdraw just a week before the race when he couldn’t get the better of his persistent wrist injury, which led to knock on injuries to his back as he tried to compensate, requiring his partner in victory last year, Heinrich Schloms, to now tackle this year’s race with Gavin White.
KZN’s Ant Stott and Cam Schoeman, a former World Marathon Champs winning combo, top the rankings going into the two day clash however the pair will be closely hunted down by the mainstay of Cape paddling Graeme Solomon and his partner, in-form surfski ace Sean Rice, as well as their fellow Cape-based crew, Simon van Gysen and Jayden Alford-Loots.
The Louw brothers, Greg and Ryan, have made the journey up from Port Elizabeth for the contest and will be eager to throw their names into the mix whilst the Gauteng veteran pairing of Piers Cruickshanks and Jacques Theron will almost certainly be there or thereabouts.
The field enjoys further depth with the likes of Edgar Boehm Jnr. and Ernest van Riet together with Alasdair Glass and Ian Trautmann amongst the entries and who could also well find themselves in the mix during the tussle whilst Dusi icon Thulani Mbanjwa and Bradley Fisher and Gauteng’s Loveday Zondi and Siseko Ntondini will be on the start line too.
Despite the battle for the under 23 title set to be one to savour, with the likes of triple Dusi winner Andy Birkett and Dewald Hattingh, Lance Kime and Stuart MacLaren, Pierre-Andre Rabie and Ben Biggs, Ivan Kruger and Joseph Williams as well as Gavin Shuter and Clinton Cook all up for the fight, it would come as little surprise if most, if not all, of these crew were in fact focusing more on battling it out with their senior rivals in the overall standings come the finish line on Sunday.
Former Olympian Shaun Rubenstein has also added his name to the pot, with partner Terry Brunton, and will be joined by fellow 2008 Beijing competitors Jen Theron and Nikki Mocké who, after Eray and Kime’s late withdrawal, will in all likelihood now lead the charge in the women’s race.
Hot on the heels of Theron and Mocké though will be a determined Kime and van Geysen, Abby Adie and Lindi-May Harmsen as well as Kim van Gysen and Jenna Ward whilst the experienced pairing of Robyn Henderson and Debbie Lewis will undoubtedly be pushing hard for a solid performance.
It is the 45th running of this popular two day marathon that is the high point of the Western Cape K2 paddling season, and also brings down the curtain on the region’s marathon paddling calendar.
Several of the sport’s legends are also poised to achieve major milestones should they complete the 72km race. Andre Collins will become the first paddler to complete 35 Breede marathons, and has won the race eight times.
Also on the water are all five paddlers who have completed 29 races, Charles Melck, Andre Rabie, Giel van Deventer, John Lee and David Walker.
The first stage consists of 37km from outside Robertson to Riggton Farm near Bonnievale, which includes technical tests at the Goudmyn sliding weir and low level bridges and Secunda weir. The final stage is 33,5km to the Kam’bati Resort outside Swellendam.
More information can be found at www.breedemarathon.co.za