27 September 2017

South Africa: U.S.- Based Eray Excited to Be Back Racing On Local Waters

For Plettenberg Bay-raised Michele Eray, now based in the United States, the upcoming Fish River Canoe Marathon will be significant for a number or reasons.

Eray returns to her paddling roots for next month's two-day classic. Five years ago, she recorded a career milestone when she won the women's K1 title at the Fish, a hugely significant moment, as she brought the title back to the Eastern Cape for the first time since the iconic Daniel Conradie won the race in 1998.

Since then, her career has taken her to the United States where she headed up their paddling High Performance Division, and travelled to the Rio Olympic Games as their head coach.

One of the athletes she coached was Maggie Hogan, with whom she has set up a novel online coaching and retailing business in California.

The pair travelled to South Africa to take part in the ICF Canoe Marathon World Champs earlier this year, and had every intention of staying on in South Africa to do a number of other iconic races. Illness prevented them from taking their places on the start-line for the Breede Marathon, but they're confirmed for the Fish Marathon in Eray's old backyard of the Klein Karoo.

'It will be Maggie's first Fish, and I'm pumped to be back for it,' enthused Eray from her old hometown of Plettenberg Bay. She's itching to get on to the coffee-coloured waters of the Fish, particularly after her plans to race last year were scuppered by a nasty elbow tendon injury which kept her away from paddling for six months.

Making the race even more significant is the fact that Eray has been hovering, for a number of frustrating years, on the cusp of joining the elite club of paddlers to have completed 10 Fish Marathons, celebrated by the awarding of a Coelacanth Certificate at the post-race prize-giving.

Eray is also looking forward to getting back on to the guaranteed 26 cumecs of water, and introducing her business partner to the unique appeals of the Fish. 'We've been going flat-out, building the business off the ground. It's been exciting times and I'm really looking forward to taking her down her first Fish.

'She's got a collegiate swimming background, and has competed at World Sprint Champs for over 10 years,' said Eray.

'We've done five marathon worlds together, with a fourth in the K2 in Gyor to our name. Maggie is a multiple national surf lifesaving Team USA athlete, who has competed at six World Champs.

'I coached her from about 2015, and she became the first US citizen in over two decades to win a medal at Sprint Worlds with her bronze in K1 1000m in Milan in 2015,' she added.

The 2017 Fish River Canoe Marathon will be staged from Grassridge Dam to the Cradock Sports Complex on 6-7 October.

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