Quintin van Jaarsveld
Mike Halliday’s supreme fitness was on display again as he secured his second age-group medal in as many years in the N3TC Drak Challenge Canoe Marathon in Underberg on Sunday.
The 65-year-old Southbroom stalwart had to draw on his vast experience as a week of rains left the Umzimkulu River at a technically demanding medium level.
As the defending great grand masters champion, Halliday had a target on his back but was unfazed, swerving setbacks and avoiding making any costly mistakes.
The South Coast Canoe Club founding member finished the 62km two-day race in five hours and 34 minutes, not quite enough for back-to-back gold, but a solid effort that saw him bag a bronze medal.
“I’m pretty happy with the result. A first is always better than a third, but a third’s not too bad. You can’t win them all,” Halliday told eHowzit.
“The first day was very technical because of the medium-lowish river. It was pretty tough and you had to know where you were going. On the second day, there was a lot more water, so it was a lot easier.”
A number of other locals also impressed. Simon Heaver and Patrick McNeill, the only South Coast tandem in this year’s Drak, were in good nick as they emulated last year’s excellent eighth-place overall finish in the K2 race.
Dylan Bense made significant inroads this year, improving 32 positions on his 2015 performance as he finished 112th overall. His father Rudi and Denzil Nicholas were less fortunate as a blow to their boat ended their race on Day One.
Andy Birkett and Abby Solms retained their men’s and women’s titles, while former South Coast star and six-time Drak winner Ant Stott, returning after a two-year absence, finished 12th overall.