Ready to step into brother’s footsteps

2009-09-29 00:00

CRADOCK – New world junior marathon champion Brandon van der Walt will start the Hansa Powerade Fish River Canoe Marathon in Cradock on October 2 and October 3 as the hot favourite to take the junior title, but he is more driven to emulate or even eclipse the record of his older brother in the race.

Grant van der Walt raced into the record books to become the youngest winner of the famous two-day race when he and Hank McGregor triumphed­ in the K2 race last year, adding a further entry into the race record books after winning the junior K1 title in a record-breaking time in 2007.

Brandon hit global headlines in Crestuma in Portugal this month when the 17-year-old blitzed to victory­ in the junior boys K1 race at the world marathon champs, before his older brother took the gold medal in the new U23 category to go with his junior world title from 2007.

For the successful Emmarentia siblings­, racing at the highest level is becoming fiercely competitive, and there is little love lost between them on the water.

“Soon Grant’s wunderkind days will be over,” says Brandon van der Walt with impish cheek.

“I have always trained with him and he has passed on his pearls of wisdom and tried to get me to go harder. That might be changing in the future, and those pearls might be replaced by daggers.”

Brandon will start alongside some talented juniors in pursuit of the K1 SA championship medals, including his K2 partner Murray Burgess, fellow­ Gauteng paddler Gavin Shuter and Clinton Cook.

However, with five Fish finishes already under his belt, and his world championship winning form, he will be hard to beat.

His   biggest   obstacle,   however, will be to shake a debilitating stomach bug that he and several others staying at the team hotel in Portugal picked up.

“I have been man down, and nowhere near training since I got home,” said Brandon. “I am hoping to shake it off in time to get in some training in my new river boat before the race.”

Grant is still an avid supporter of his brother, but he challenges him [Brandon] to eclipse his 2007 performance, when Grant broke the junior­ record and finished third overall.

“If we find ourselves together I will be glad to help him along. But there is no greater rivalry than sibling rivalry­.

“If, say, we both get to the bottom of Cradock Weir together (in the closing stages of the race) then there will be no love lost.”

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