Chalupsky set to raise the bar in Hawaii challenge

2013-05-04 00:00

Chalupsky set to raise the bar in Hawaii challenge, writes DAVID KNOWLES

DURBAN surfski legend Oscar Chalupsky jetted to Hawaii late this week with a mission in mind and a standard to set.

His mission: to win an unprecedented 13th Molokai Challenge on May 19 and prove that, at age 50, sportsmen can still be competitive, push their bodies to the limit and beat the world’s best.

The Molokai is a 52 km paddle across the Kaiwi Channel, between the islands of Molokai and Oahu, where paddlers face strong winds and big swells, the key is “to sprint and rest, making the most of catching good runs and using the conditions to your advantage”, according to Chalupsky.

Chalupsky won his first Molokai in 1983 when he was 20. He is the defending champion, having beaten Australian Clint Robinson (nine wins) last year in a race which saw the top eight finish within five minutes of each other.

The South African will not surrender his title lightly.

“Not many people give a 50-year-old much of a chance against paddlers aged in their early twenties who could be my sons. I have trained hard and to be able to look back and say I won the race in my ’20s, ’30s, ’40s and ’50s … that would be a tough record to beat.”

Fiercely competitive, this will be Chalupsky’s 19th Molokai. Other than his 12 wins, his worst finish is sixth.

Preparing for the race, Chalupsky has left nothing to chance. Before leaving for Hawaii — where he gives himself a few weeks to acclimatise, get used to his boat and test his lines in the water — he was assessed at the high performance centre at Moses Mabhida stadium by Springbok physician, Craig Roberts.

The results gave a clear indication of how serious Chalupsky is about winning. “For his age, Oscar is a great athlete,” said Roberts.

“I looked at his heart rate and his VO2 max rate, which is 55 ml of oxygen per kilogram of body weight per minute. This indicates his body’s potential to burn oxygen and equates to the level of an elite athlete. This is exceptional as most sportsmen’s levels tend to taper after age 30.”

Chalupsky’s lactate turnpoint of 84% of his VO2 max score astounded Roberts. “For an athlete of this age, the results are phenomenal. It’s no surprise though when I consider how thoroughly Oscar has trained and the shape he is in,” he said.

A punishing training schedule has seen Chalupsky push his body to the limit. To adapt to the hot and warm conditions of Hawaii, he places his body under stress, burning up in the heat and depriving it of regular fluid intake. Said Chalupsky, “I have trained my body to race this event with no juice. In training, I take in at most 150 ml of water on a 52 km paddle. During training, I run in the gym then spend up to 30 minutes in a sauna which is pumping at 45 degrees. After winning this race so many times, I have to mentally prepare my body and I have no excuses afterwards.”

All that remains is for Chalupsky to prove his pedigree once more in a race he has made his own. He acknowledges he is ultra competitive.

“My confidence is high and I don’t enter anything without the thought of winning. What’s the point otherwise? All the effort in training and where I am at with my body must be worthwhile and clearly indicates my quest to win.”

As for his gameplan this year, Chalupsky said he needed current and wind to be on his side. “Breaking the record does not interest me. I determine how the race will go from the beginning and am experienced enough to know when to take it easy and when to attack. This will be a lucky 13 for me,” he said.

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