Four-time Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon champion Abby Solms will become the most decorated female competitor in the history of the prominent Eastern Cape event should she successfully defend her crown when this year’s race takes place in Cradock on 7 and 8 October.
Having won the two-day event four times in the past five years, the 26 year-old Pietermaritzburg based Euro Steel/Gara Racing Paddles star currently shares the record of most Hansa Fish victories by a female competitor with former paddling powerhouse, Alexa Cole.
The Natal Canoe Club river marathon stand-out remains unperturbed by the record at stake though, opting to focus instead on building on from the form she showed during her recent victory at the recent Breede River Canoe Marathon in the Western Cape with her Camps Drift training partner Ronel Stevens.
“You always want to go out there and push for the win while it would be nice to win a fifth Fish title and to become the first female to do so would be something special,” explains Solms.
“I haven’t been on the water much this Winter since SA Marathon Champs though as I’ve been really enjoying my running and I did my first road marathon at the Cape Town Marathon last weekend, so I won’t be quite as prepared this year as I have been in previous years.
“The Breede at least gave me some distance in the arms recently, which was great, and I’ve still got a bit of time to put in a bit more training, but I’ll just have to see how I go on the day.
“Some of the other girls taking part in Marathon World Champs this weekend in Germany will also have a distinct advantage over me on the flatter last ten kilometres or so of each day, so I’ll have to bear that in mind too,” she adds.
Three of Solms’ four previous victories have come in a K2 alongside doubles partners Hilary Bruss (2011) and Anna Kožíšková (2013 and 2015).
A repeat of her solitary individual success two years ago would see Solms claim another record – becoming just the third female competitor after Cole (2001 and 2003) and Abbey Ulansky (2005 and 2007) to claim back-to-back K1 Hansa Fish victories since the turn of the millennium.
Having already enjoyed such success at the 82km canoe marathon from Grassridge Dam to Cradock Sports Complex previously, it comes as little surprise that the Hansa Fish remains one of Solms’ favourite races on the South African calendar and an assignment she again looks forward to in 2016.
“Everyone descends on this small town in the Eastern Cape for the Fish and its really great fun.
“You go to the Fish to race for sure, but you also go there to take in the atmosphere and have a good time so it’s a lot more social that some of the country’s other big races.
“I’m sure it will be another fantastic two days in Cradock again this year,” adds Solms.
The 2016 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon takes place from Grassridge Dam to Cradock Sports Complex on Friday 7 and Saturday 8 October.