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European crew pose big threat at Fish River Marathon

The formidable K2 crew of Germany’s Tobias Bong and Tom├í┼í Slov├ík of Czech Republic have teamed up for the first time ever ahead of this year’s 32nd edition of the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon on 27-28 September, posing arguably the strongest podium challenge from the growing band of international crews.

Both Bong and Slov├ík are no stranger to the Eastern Cape’s paddling jewel, having both taken part in the hugely popular event twice previously, however their first expedition together will be vastly different to their previous encounters.

ÔÇ£This will be my third Fish, having raced there in 2009 in a K1 and 2011 in K2,ÔÇØ explained Bong, pictured right (front) from his European home. ÔÇ£2011 was a good year for myself and my partner Achm Overbeck, but we also had a lot of bad luck on the course so I guess our third was still quite good under the circumstances.

ÔÇ£I haven’t ever raced with Tom├í┼í (Slov├ík) before, only against him in Wildwater racing, but I’m really looking forward to paddling with him at this year’s Hansa Fish. Tom├í┼í is a good friend of mine and a great sportsman and I think we will have a lot of fun together on the river!ÔÇØ he added enthusiastically.

Outside of his third in 2011, Bong finished eighth in a single in 2009 whilst Slovák has a fourth, in 2010, and a sixth, in 2011, to his name after solid back-to-back outings with countryman Robert Knebel.

Having visited the podium before Bong is hopeful he and Slov├ík will be able to replicate the feat once again in 2013, despite having a great appreciation of the depth of talent in this year’s field. ÔÇ£I’m hoping we can finish on the podium again. The Fish is a hard race though and anything can happen so there are many boats that can win and do well,ÔÇØ said Bong.

ÔÇ£The Louw brothers (Greg and Ryan), for example, are very good paddlers but overall I think Hank (McGregor) and Grant (van der Walt) are the fastest and they are the one’s I’d say everyone needs to watch the most!ÔÇØ

Despite partnering ‘Fisher King’ Len Jenkins and eyeing out a possible first ever Fish title, local star Greg Louw is one of the many top South African crews who have sat up and taken notice of Bong and Slov├ík’s entry. ÔÇ£Tobias (Bong) and Tom├í┼í (Slov├ík) are really flying at the moment,ÔÇØ said the Port Elizabeth local. ÔÇ£They’re coming out on their own accord so they’ll be looking to be in the prize money!ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£They’re definitely not coming here for a holiday, they’ll be here to race and race hard, that’s for sure!ÔÇØ he added.

With the cost of international travel of the modern era and a crammed schedule, the European crew will be in and out in a relatively short South African trip however they will be keen to make every second of their journey count, particularly in the build-up to the highly anticipated two-day, 82km clash. ÔÇ£Tom├í┼í and I arrive on 23 September and stay until 30 September, so it’s just for one week ÔÇô too short for such a great country but unfortunately it is what it is,ÔÇØ sighed Bong.

ÔÇ£We both have just a couple of days just before the race to prepare, so hopefully this will be enough!ÔÇØ

Picture: Jon Vellacott/Gameplan Media


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