Covering the Goulburn and Murray valleys

Bond heads to Rio

Echuca's Tony Bond is off to Rio de Janeiro on Saturday to compete in the 2014 Va’a World Sprint Championships.

ERIN LYONS August 7, 2014 3:04am

Tony Bond will compete in Rio de Janeiro.

Age is just a number for long-time paddler Tony Bond.

The 61-year old veteran will travel to Rio de Janeiro on Saturday to compete in the 2014 Va’a World Sprint Championships.

While Bond will be accompanied by 30 of Australia’s best paddlers, he will be the only Victorian representing his country.

‘‘It just so happens that everyone else lives in Queensland,’’ he said.

‘‘I only see the Australian team when I head to competition.’’

The World Sprint Championships are held every two years and Bond is proud to announce that the forthcoming 2016 competition will be held on home turf.

‘‘The previous championships have been held in New Caledonia and Canada,’’ he said.

‘‘But the next one will be held on the Sunshine Coast, which will be great because I don’t have to travel.’’

The paddler said Rio might be expecting less competitors than usual because many countries have safety concerns about the location of the tournament.

‘‘Some countries may only take one competitor over. I’ll be racing mostly against Brazilian paddlers,’’ he said.

‘‘Whereas at the next comp on the Sunshine Coast we should attract around 2000 paddlers from around the world.’’

Bond expects about 1600 competitors to be competing in Rio.

The paddler is his own coach and trains individually in Echuca. He also holds multiple titles from various events.

‘‘I’m number one in both the over 60s and adaptive class. So I represent both teams,’’ he said.

‘‘I’m actually the steerer for the para canoe adaptive class too.’’

The adaptive class is split into four categories and includes competitors with either physical or visual disabilities.

Bond said as a steerer he was responsible for the safety of the physically disabled paddlers.

‘‘They are mostly in wheelchairs, so they get strapped into the boat,’’ he said.

‘‘I’m in charge to make sure when I turn the boat that we don’t go outside the lanes or tip over.’’

As an Echuca born resident, Bond has grown up alongside the Murray River.

So, he said it was only natural that he developed an interest in canoeing at 14 years of age.

‘‘Got given my first bat (paddle) at 14, so since then I’ve stuck with it,’’ he said.

Bond said his biggest achievement was earning a spot on the podium.

‘‘I came second at the worlds four years ago in New Caledonia,’’ he said.

Despite his age, the veteran believes he still has a good decade of competitive paddling left in him.

‘‘The age groups go all the way up to over 70s,’’ he said.

‘‘So, I hope to be competing at the Sunshine Coast in two years’ time.’’

Bond said the key to winning an event came down to the turn.

‘‘If you can’t turn a boat, you’ve got no hope,’’ he said.

‘‘It should be called the turning race.’’

The 61-year old usually competes in the golden master (60-69 age group) but will also be representing Australia in the men’s open division, adaptive class and over 40s in Rio next week.

The International Va’a Federation and Brazilian Canoe Confederation hope to promote the unusual sport by recruiting a new generation of paddlers.

Erin Lyons

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