Czech paddlers conquer the Orange River

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Cameron EwartSmith

2014 Green Kalahari Canoe Marathon

Michael Odvarko and Kamil Mruzek from the Czech Republic made a successful debut on the Orange and will return home as K2 champions of the 2014 Green


Canoe Marathon. The pair has performed consistently well throughout the race with top three finishes in all three stages.

A delighted Odvarko was very excited about their win. “This was a very nice race and the atmosphere is completely different to the international competitions we are used to where it is quite stressful and extremely competitive. You don’t normally have time to relax with the organisers and other competitors or get taken care of so well. It has really been fun and we would love to come back, especially if the river is fuller. The scenery is also incredibly beautiful. We’ll definitely see if we can fit it into our European racing calendar and try to come back next year,” said Odvarko.

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Capetonians Tom Schilperoort and Stuart Maclaran finished third with Thulani Mhanjwa and Sbonelo Zondi taking third place on the podium. Sowetan youngsters Thando Ntondini and Thando Ngamlana were fourth overall and also topped the under 23 ranking. Luke Stowman and Louw van Riet finished in fifth place.

“It was a very strong field and we unfortunately we had a bad first day, but improved daily. Fortunately we managed to get away with the front bunch and managed to beat the Swedes to fifth place. The heroes of this race were the international guys. One of the Czech guys has never paddled using a rudder for steering and the Swedes have never been on a river and they finished first and sixth respectively. That is just an incredible performance. This has been a really technical race with the low water levels making it very challenging. We had a brand new boat and it looked as if it’s done at least a dozen Dusi races – it took it real a beating,” mentions Van Riet.

Van Riet joined the rest of the field in commending the sponsors and race organisers. “The race just has an amazing atmosphere and the hospitality has been incredible. We’ve definitely had the most incredible food and other race organisers can take a leaf from their book. I just love the Northern Cape and have done all three races to date. I’ll certainly return next year as this race just has a completely different feel,” said Van Riet at the finish at Khamkirri.

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Kirsten Penderis and her paddling partner Bianca Beavitt celebrated Women’s Day on the water and will enjoy their prize money. “It is the first time that I’ve paired up with Bianca and we literally only had trained together twice, but we combined really well and I’d definitely like to paddle with her again. It is a pity not more women have entered, but I think the race came too quickly after Die Berg. I love coming to the Orange and the Northern Cape and will definitely be back to do the K1 race next year. It’s a nice race over a good distance. I’ve also brought some of my development teams and it was good exposure for them. For some it was their first marathon ever and others had their first exposure to river paddling.

All images in the #gkcm series by Cameron EwartSmith

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