Sir Steve Redgrave confirmed his own doubts about completing the Devizes to Westminster canoe race by pulling out 16 and a half hours after setting off from Devizes Wharf on Saturday.
Sir Steve, who was teamed up with Roger Hatfield for the 125-mile non-stop challenge, had been pessimistic about his chances days before the event.
On his website he had written on April 2: “With less than a week to go before I compete in the Devizes to Westminster canoe race, I am starting to wonder if I am actually looking forward to this event.
“I have managed to improve my fitness considerably in recent months, not to Olympic levels, but to a level I am happy with and yet I am not sure I have done enough.”
He reiterated those fears when he spoke to the Gazette & Herald at Devizes Wharf on Saturday morning. Asked if he was looking forward to the race, he said: “Not really.
“We were here five weeks ago for a training session. It didn’t go well. I ended up in Reading with cramp.”
Sir Steve was not the only former Olympian rower to fall foul of the “canoeists’ Everest”. Sarah Winckless, who won a bronze medal in the double sculls at the Athens Olympics in 2004, and Ben Hunt-Davis, who won a gold in the coxed eights in Sydney in 2000, pulled out after 15 hours and 45 minutes.
The conditions were perfect for the race, not too cold, overcast and with a gentle cooling rain.
As expected, the senior doubles race was won by Richard Hendron and James King of the Richmond Canoe Club, who have won several times before. They crossed the line at Westminster Bridge in 17 hours 57 minutes and 20 seconds.
Second were Daniel Seaford and James Keeble of the Reading Canoe Club in 18:21:17. The pair had won the Waterside D race from Devizes to Newbury two weeks ago in a convincingly fast time.
Matthew Guy and Nick East of the Exeter Canoe Club were third in 18:43:11.
The first Devizes Canoe Club across the line was James Mahoney and Chris Todd who were 54th in 25:04:39. Mr Todd, from Bromham, is a veteran of marathons in the Gobi Desert and the Arctic.
Another Devizes crew, Roger Edwards and Rob Emery, was 78th in 27:49:31 while Sue Colby and Ian Thackray were 95th in 32:12:34. Andrew Sanigar and Steve Kelly sadly had to retire after nearly 13 hours of paddling.
Gazette and Herald - Monday 9th April 2012