Masters Musings – January 2012
By Glen Benison
The World Masters Canoe/Kayak championships were beckoning last summer and Pointe Claire Canoe Club’s Edit Fried heard the call. A similar call the summer before to compete in Regina at CanMas did not carry the same weight and Edit chose then to not travel to the flats of Saskatchewan. But this past summer it was different. This call came from Hungary and Edit knew she had to be there. Edit Fried, twenty two years after immigrating to Canada, was being called by her native country. Edit Fried was going home.
Nova Scotia’s Bill Lobban had a ticket to ride but was caught in a thick North Atlantic fog. Bill sat in the St. John’s airport and waited several hours for his flight to Europe to gain clearance knowing that his connecting flight to Hungary would be long gone by the time he landed in Europe. Bill Lobban was also reacting to the call from the World Masters and he had enthusiastically packed his racing silks for a journey to canoeing’s Mecca. He was anticipating Hungary as a child anticipates Disney World. While Edit Fried was going home, Bill Lobban was going nowhere.
"Here he was hopping through international borders.
All that he wanted was to race his kayak ... Ah freedom sixty-five."
Marc Nemec who can usually be seen displaying his immense kayaking talents with Richmond Hill Canoe Club was also crossing borders and heading to Hungary. Marc, now in his fabulously fit senior years, had competed with the Czechoslovakian national team when in his youth. In those not-so-old days of restricted freedoms of movement and expression, Marc Nemecwould not have had easy access to just get up and go to Hungary. But in 2011, here he was hopping through international borders without worry, without restrictions. All that he wanted was to race his kayak and so first he travelled to Hungary for the Worlds and then onto Italy for the European championships. Ah freedom sixty-five.
Other Canadians jumped at the chance to join the jaunt to Szeged. Dennis Ring of Banook, Christine Gauthier, Alain Buliard and everyone’s favourite ageless Frank Czaki, all of Pointe Claire, packed their bags. As did the Kay boys, Bob and David, from Rideau and Fridrich Lederer who was last seen paddling for Calgary (correct me please if I am wrong). Edit Fried designed and produced racing jerseys for all Canadians and competing Americans to wear around the regatta sight. They identified themselves as the United Kayak Canoe Team of Americas. And they kicked butt.
Edit Fried, competing back on her home turf in front of native supporters and against some of her paddling mates from decades earlier, rocked their world. Edit, who had got on the podium just once as a Budapest youth in K-4, now owned the podium in Szeged. She won four gold medals. Her most invigorating performance was her 200M K-1 gold. The field in that event was deep yet she prevailed, right there at home, crossing the same finish line where Adam van Koeverden just a week earlier had set the winning tone. Edit’s most cherished victory might well have been the Mixed K-2 gold she won with her husband Alain Buliard. A Kodak-moment photo shows Alain lifting Edit up on to the top of the podium for their medal presentation.
Bill Lobban finally got out of the Newfoundland pea-soup fog in the early hours of the following morning. The deep vein thrombosis that might have impacted a lesser fit individual who was forced to spend so many hours sitting on his duff did not take effect on Lobban. When his plane finally landed in Hungary, Bill was still flying possibly due to his lightened wallet load which had been depleted from having to repay for his missed connecting flight within Europe. In Szeged, he would go on to win the 200M C-1 event by an awesome 4 second margin and then finished second in the 2KMC-1 race. Bill Lobban is huge and I can’t imagine there being a more imposing or intimidating figure on the start lineduring that competition. A photograph from the 1970 archives shows Lobban bending a wood shaft paddle during the catch of his stroke. Might he have similarly bent the carbon fibre shaft of his paddle while churning to victory in Hungary this summer?
Joining Bill Lobban on the podium for both C-1 medal presentations, as has been a common scene at past CanMas championships, was Ottawa’s Bobby Kay. Kay won bronze in both C-1 events.
Pointe Claire’s Frank Csaki would come home with two C-1 gold medals for the 75-79 year age group. He showed the world that a Canadian lifestyle, such as Frank’s, which commits to exercise and athleticism, can be a beautiful thing and an on-going process.
Dennis Ring, from Banook, was last seen in Regina winning not only his own age class K-1 CanMas event but also a younger category as well. This past summer, Dennis chose to take his show on the road to Hungary. He finished a strong 5th in a fifteen man field of vibrant 60-64 year olds. Ring was less than half a second from the podium.
And then we come back to Marc Nemec, the Richmond Hill Czechoslovakian ex-pat. If you flip through the CanMas record book you will see that Marc has been winning K-1 events at our Nationals for most of the past fifteen years. The guy is an absolute marvel. Marc Nemec returned to the former Eastern Block as a Canadian, lined up beside ten other wannabees and powered blades full of water between he and the field to win gold medals in both the 200M and 2Km K-1 events. You must watch this guy if he comes to Lake Banook next summer…and let’s hope he does.
These ten Canadian paddlers have inspired me as they beat a path to the podium. They have revealed the real benefits of life fitness. They have showed that Canada can do. To be able to play as hard as they did has raised the bar for the rest of us. Let’s grab it.
Glen Benison is a Masters paddler at Burloak.