Len Jenkins has confirmed that he will be out to extend his unbeaten run and total domination of the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon when this year's race gets under way at Grassridge Dam on Friday, 5 October.
"Fisher King" Jenkins is sizing up his sixth overall win in succession since his record breaking win in 2001, while other paddlers agonize over how he manages to race the 84km race harder than any other athlete on the water.
World marathon champion Hank McGregor called him a freak. "He is the King of the Fish without a shadow of a doubt," said McGregor.
'He is a freak and I respect that'
"There is no-one else on this planet who is able to go flatbox for three hours like Len does on the first stage. He is a freak and I respect that."
"I actually don't know why I have been so successful at the Hansa Fish," mused Jenkins. "That first day just seems to have been made for me. I love the river and somehow I am able to go flat out for the whole of the first stage, which might be the difference.
"It is a long way, and by the time I get to the finish I am red-lining," he continued. "If it was another couple of kilometres further, I would go bang!"
Jenkins' biggest challenge this year will, however, not be the rapids and weirs over the two days or the top class field that is currently assembling. It will be the unpredictable task of recovering from a trip to the World Marathon Championships in Rome less than two weeks before the Hansa Fish.
The Natal Canoe Club ace has been in superb form this season and hopes to finish on the podium at the world title decider in Italy before heading down to Cradock to prepare for his title defence.
"It is very do-able, but I will be in the same boat as guys like Hank McGregor and Grant van der Walt, who will also be racing at the Worlds. The trick is just not to get sick from all the travelling," Jenkins explained.
Happier in a single
He has always been happier in a single (K1), and while he has been successful in many K2 combinations, he has had far more failures in doubles than singles. In 2010 Jenkins and Matt Bouman looked to have the race sewn up after the first stage only to be reeled in by Hank McGregor and Grant van der Walt on the final day.
"I think I have a different boat-feel, which is why I love K1 racing," Jenkins admitted.
The Hansa Fish takes place in Cradock on 5 and 6 October 2012 and will decide the SA K1 River Championships.