For a man who had a heart attack this April, Greg Thompson made his 32nd Hawkesbury Canoe Classic look easy.
Competing with a four-man crew, including his two sons, the 57-year-old finished the event in the fastest time out of the 364 craft on the Windsor to Brooklyn course.
“This year’s paddle in the Classic started off as ‘just helping dad finish his 32nd race’ but soon developed into something bigger as our training through the winter was going well,” said the Winmalee father.
“We thought we might have a chance of breaking nine hours and even faster if things went well — the rest is history.”
Mr Thompson’s crew of his sons Jared and Ben, and Blue Mountains City councillor Brendan Luchetti, finished the 111km event in eight hours, 11 minutes and 53 seconds.
Mr Thompson competed in the Classic wearing a heart monitor after his cardiologist gave him the all clear to start training for the event earlier this year.
“The patience and care showed by all the younger members of the boat knowing that all their training, effort and expectations could come to nil if I had any twinge of chest pain was very comforting and showed great self sacrifice,” he said.
“It goes without saying that many thanks must be given to our loyal supporters and land crew who followed us down the river yelling and screaming support from the river bank and making sure all was well with us.”
The Classic veteran wasn’t the only paddler in his crew with a comeback story. Brendan Luchetti broke his leg in a multi-sport event last year and had all but given up on competing in the Classic only 10 weeks out from the event when he suffered a serious wrist injury.
Starting at 6pm on October 26, the Blue Mountains paddlers arrived at Brooklyn just after 2am. The endurance event even became an obstacle course at one point as they dodged beer bottles thrown from a house boat near Wisemans Ferry.
While Greg Thompson’s Hawkesbury Canoe Classic record is unlikely to be beaten his two sons are doing their best to continue the family tradition.
Jared, from Springwood, now has nine events to his name while his brother Ben, from Faulconbridge, has competed in six.