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The Rock-itt : December 2011
Sydney’s northern beaches have a new world champion – an unassuming sportsman who is face to face with the public every day. He’s Matt Blundell, owner of Pro-Kayaks kayak shop, on the water’s edge at Narrabeen Lakes. He is well known in kayaking circles as an active member of both Manly Warringah Kayak Club and Lane Cove River Kayakers, two of Sydney’s biggest and most successful clubs. He competes regularly in local events and is equally at home mixing with club paddlers as he is competing against the international elite. Every Tuesday evening he trains a group of Manly Warringah K1 and ski paddlers. Most of these are older paddlers, as younger kayakers tend to go into national talent squads. Blundell won a gold medal in the Masters 40-44 age category at the 19th International Canoe Federation Marathon World Championships in Singapore in October. He also finished a highly creditable 19th in the open category, racing against the fastest kayakers in the world. A Kiwi who has been living in Australia for many years, he won the right to represent New Zealand in the world championships by placing 2nd to Olympic silver m edallist, Ben Fuohy in the New Zealand titles in April. “This victory would rank with winning the W orld Masters Marathon at Penrith two years ago,” he said. The world championships were held in Singapore’s Marina Reservoir, a larger version of Darling Harbour in downtown Singapore with the business and financial district, hotels and a big new casino forming a scenic backdrop. Marina Reservoir was formed in 2008 when the Marina Barrage was completed, turning the former Marina Bay and Kallang Basin into a new downtown freshwater storage area. It is a choice venue for a range of water sports including kayaking and sailing. In the middle of the water is a floating soccer field, connected to the shore by a bridge. Competitors had to do portages across the soccer field – in other words they had to get out of the kayaks on one side of the field, carry their boats while running to the other side, and then jump back into their craft and continue the race. The open title event of 30.1km was divided into 12 laps with 7 portages. The 40-44 masters event was shorter at officially 21.5km (Blundell said it was actually about 22.5km) with 5 laps and a couple fewer portages.Has anyone ever heard before of a kayak race requiring competitors to race across a soccer field with their craft? Matt Blundell about to get out of his K1 kayak after winning the veterans 40-44 year world championship in Singapore. These racing craft are very unstable – or “tippy” as they say in kayaking circles – and to be able to stand up in one requires amazing balance. Matt Blundell, in a black costume second up from bottom right, sits comfortably just behind the leader in the early stages of the world title race in Singapore