Aiming for a Drak record

2009-02-12 00:00

Dusi champion Ant Stott has set his sights on a slice of canoeing history by winning an unprecedented sixth Drakensberg Challenge title in Underberg on February 21 and February 22.

“The timing should be good for me. Obviously I took a break after the Dusi, and I should be able to get back to good form for the Drak Challenge,” said Stott, who unashamedly admits that his focus is on September’s World Marathon Championships.

Stott is anticipating a highly competitive Drak Challenge.

“Hank McGregor will be very good, and I hear Grant van der Walt is going very well,” said Stott. “It will be great if Len Jenkins is there in good shape, and I also hear that Dawid Mocke and a whole bunch of Cape paddlers are coming as well.”

“Watch Mike Arthur,” warns Stott. “He is just getting better and better, and he did a lot of his Dusi training up in Underberg.”

Stott hit the proverbial wall after his Dusi triumph in January, falling ill as he came off his training peak. However, he has recovered and is focusing his energies on adding another Drak title to go with his victories in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2005.

He is part of the prestigious Drak Trout club of paddlers who have completed 10 of these famous races, with three other top-five finishes to go with his five victories. The only time that he has finished outside the top 10 was his 18th place finish in 1995.

But in those results hides his debut in the legendary flood conditions in 1994, when he was one of the hundreds of casualties who failed to finish.

“I trashed my rudder on the Black Murray rapids on the first day,” he recalls. “It was really big and I thought the rudder damage was a good enough excuse to call it quits.”

The popular 32-year-old Stott, who won his fourth Dusi title a few weeks ago, a few months after winning the Marathon World Championship K2 title with Cam Schoeman, has been the dominant character in the 15-year history of the Drakensberg Challenge.

“I love this race and I have to admit, I also love winning,” said Stott reflecting on his association with the Drak Challenge.

“The Underberg area and the Umzimkulu River are very special places to our family, as my grandparents had a farm close to the trout hatcheries, and I still love spending time there.”

It was on that section of river that a young Stott first experienced a canoe race, while he and a group of family friends were out tubing on the Umzimkulu River.

“The paddlers came past us and it made a big impression on me,” recalls Stott. “Oscar Chalupsky was a paddler who my dad recognised and when he called out to him, Oscar tossed his cap to him.”

While Stott has been more successful than any other paddler on this race, he has also had his fair share of scares on the river. Last year, he lost contact with his boat during a training paddle and it was swept through the Black Murray rapids. “We chased it running along the bank for about four kilometres,” says Stott. “It all just teaches you to respect the river.”

More information on the Drakensberg Challenge can be found at www.drak.co.za

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