Five time women’s champion of the N3TC Drak Challenge Abby Solms has confirmed that she will be back on the start line for the 2016 edition of the popular two-day canoe marathon on the Mzimkhulu on 23 and 24 January, saying that the race is one of her favourites and a vital part of her FNB Dusi training.
Solms, who got married in May this year, and who won a hat-trick of Drak Challenge women’s titles under her maiden name Abby Adie, has been the dominant female paddler on the Drak since her first win 2010, with only Robyn Kime’s 2012 win breaking her stranglehold on the race in recent times.
“I really love the race,” said Solms. “It is always different as the water level changes and you have to back your river skills.”
“I guess I have paddled on rivers like this a bit more than some of the other women and the experience definitely helps.
” I do my tripping but during the race you have to read what is in front of you, which I really like,” she added.
Solms says she is unfazed by the possibility of a low river, given the prevailing drought, and says she actually enjoys paddling the Mzimkulu at a technical, low level.
“We tend to be lighter than the guys around us so we get through rapids easier when it is low,” said Solms.
“Last year the race committee took the decision to race from the top even though it was low, and I actually really enjoyed that,” she added.
“We have no control over what the weather dishes up for the race, so there is no point in worrying about it. I look forward to it whether it is full or low,” said Solms.
The Euro Steel athlete said that she was planning to spend time in the Underberg area training before the race, saying it was an increasingly popular training destination ahead of the FNB Dusi as the Mzimkulu water is reliably clean and numerous rocky rapids sharpen paddlers’ river skills.
“I am looking forward to spending some time there in the weeks before the Drak to freshen up my lines.
“It is a beautiful place to train and tripping up there is so much fun.
“The race is always so competitive amongst the women and yet it is always so enjoyable too,” she added.
Solms added that her impressive run of five wins in six years did bring with it added pressure as she was now clearly the woman to beat at the N3TC Drak Challenge.
“Yes I guess it does create a little extra pressure, but the reality is that I plan and train to race every race as hard as I can.
“It is an important race and you want to get through it making the least number of mistakes. Being the defending champion doesn’t change that.
Solms, who will racing the FNB Dusi with Canoe Marathon World Champ Anna Kožíšková of the Czech Republic, will be using the build-up to, and the N3TC Drak Challenge itself, as the last part of her solitary K1 training before Kožíšková arrives in the country just after the Drak Challenge to start her FNB Dusi K2 preparations.
As she eyes the unprecedented possibility of a sixth Drak women’s title, Solms is just excited to be back in the Underberg, where she stays with family friends and paddles on a river that she has built up a special relationship with.