CANOEING: CANOEIST Dave Bradburn has defied serious injury and nerves to clinch a second major title in two years with his team-mate - and by their biggest margin ever.
And for Bradburn, canoeing is a family affair. When he and partner Rob Rumphrey clinched the national championship of wild water Canadian doubles last month, it was just another victory for a family of champion sportsmen and women, as Dave joins wife Jill and father-in-law Ray Stamp in the canoeing hall of fame.
It made for a second doubles championship in two years for Chester-based Dave, who clinched the title with two rounds to spare in a race on the River Dee in North Wales.
Dave said: "That particular race was edgy because we'd fallen in during practice. That was a bit of a wake-up call for us and after the race we admitted we were both a bit nervous.
"The races set off at minute intervals in reverse order, so we set off last as we were defending champions.
"We were closing in on the others so we knew it was in the bag, but we very nearly fell in on the last drop. In the end we managed to win by 29 seconds over a 13-minute race. That's the biggest winning margin we've had since we've been paddling together."
The victory was made even more sweet as Dave suffered from a recur-ring shoulder injury and had to under-take major surgery midway through the season.
"The shoulder operation almost jeopardised our championship," he said. "I was suffering from repetitive dislocations. They've pretty much fixed it now. Luckily I got seen by the head specialist in Chester.
"I'm still being a little bit cautious but it feels about 95 per cent better. It was a long-standing injury which I'd originally done rock climbing."
Fortunately for Dave, his recovery went according to plan and he and Rob were able to complete the season.
"We've both been paddling in single boats and he's been singles champion for the last ten years. Last year when he finished first in the singles, I finished second in the singles and together we won the doubles," he added.
"Last season when we were paddling together the previous year's defending champions only took part in one race. People said we only won the title because of that, but they were back this year.
"They won the first two races this season but that gave us the motivation to go away and work that little bit harder. So this year's win was more satisfying. You can only beat whoever puts themselves on the line."
Their fellow competitors come from all over Britain, with the 12-race season held at rivers across England, Scotland and Wales.
"We don't paddle against any full-time athletes from the continent - they train four and five hours a day so when we go to international races we're up against it," added Dave.
With the 2006 world championships to be held in Wales, Dave and Rob are hoping to pit their wits against their professional counterparts.
"There's a possibility that we might compete then," Dave said. "It's whether we can keep going for that long. We're both getting busier and busier at work so we're only training six sessions a week now. Most of it's on the flat water at Chester on the Dee."
Dave has been racing in Canadian doubles since a friend called for his assistance in a race several years ago. After finishing fourth in his first race, he was hooked on the sport which is substantially different to standard kayaking.
Canadian canoes have closed cockpits and paddlers have only one blade, as opposed to kayakers who have blades on both sides. Perhaps the biggest difference is that Canadian canoeists kneel in their canoes and are strapped in. "It takes you a long time to be able to paddle just on the flat without falling in," David continued. "But it means we've got a little bit of extra height so we can see what's coming a little bit