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Grant van der Walt © Gallo Images

Van der Walt eyes Drak as maiden singles title

The 2013 Drak Challenge could see the rise in South Africa's river marathon scene of under-23 world marathon paddling champ Grant van der Walt.

He looks to claim his maiden singles river title of his career in Underberg this weekend.

The youngster has risen through the ranks rapidly in recent years and has claimed an impressive number of K2 (double-seater kayak) titles in a short space of time.

But he acknowledges the time had come for him to step out from doubles partner Hank McGregor's shadow and create a legacy of his own, especially in a K1.

Van der Walt, having spent the past couple of years under McGregor's wing, looks forward to the day when he can put himself up against his mentor.

However, with McGregor unable to compete in this year's clash due to international surfski commitments, for now he is focused solely on giving the title his best shot.

"I'm definitely ready to start trying to compete for titles of my own and it's definitely time for me to start shining," Van der Walt said.

"To win my first major singles title would be amazing and is something I'm really looking forward to hopefully being able to experience in the near future."

Van der Walt still has his work cut out for him if he is to make the Drak Challenge title his own with the likes of "Fisher King" Len Jenkins, Drak record holder Ant Stott, triple Dusi champ Andy Birkett and teammate Lance Kime all aiming for similar success.

"Len (Jenkins) has always been a bit of a wildcard. You never quite know what you're going to get from him, but one thing is for sure, he definitely prefers leading from the front, so I'm sure he'll be pushing right from the start and will be one for everyone to mark carefully.

"The Drak is basically Ant (Stott)'s backyard. He knows it so well and he's done really well here over the years so I'm sure he'll be up there as well and then if the river is a bit low guys like Andy (Birkett) and Lance (Kime), who are a lot lighter and are in and out of the boat so quickly, will also come into things."

With mixed weather reports and the unique nature of the catchment area in the region paddlers are unsure of what may lie in wait for them come Saturday morning's start.

Van der Walt will certainly be hoping talk of rain during the week is correct and that there will be more water than there was on the opening day in 2012.

The Drak Challenge starts on January 19 at Castleburn outside Underberg, and finishes on January 20 at Early Mist Farm near Coleford.


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