Neville Maytom’s latest medal is as much a credit to his hustle on land as his skill with a paddle.
The Nelson paddler and his partner Rob Lang finished third in doubles kayak at the ICF Canoe Marathon Masters World Cup, which was held in Brandenburg, Germany, in September.
To win bronze, Maytom and Lang had to do more than just paddle for 19 kilometres. The race also featured four portages, where competitors would have to carry their kayak over a dry surface for about 150 metres before jumping back into the water for another lap.
Maytom has represented Canada at kayaking events for 16 years with 17 career medals to show for it.
But this was his first time at the World Cup, and a significant change from what he’s used to.
“In the old days it was just a race across a lake or down a river from one point to another,” said Maytom. “The spectators might have seen the start or the finish and that was it. But with this routine they have now, the start is out in front of the grandstand and the laps are about four kilometres if I remember correctly.
“Each portage actually happens in front of the grandstand where all the spectators are. In Europe this is quite a popular sport so there’s a lot of people there. It’s just nice for them to be able to see the paddlers.”
The race wasn’t an easy paddle to the podium for Maytom.
First, he had to get to know how to work with Lang, who lives on Prince Edward Island. The pair had never raced together prior to the World Cup.
“We actually just got together shortly before this event and tried it out and hoped that we could combine well,” said Maytom. “[Lang’s] a guy with a lot of experience and you know I’ve got a few years behind me as well. So it helps to combine well with somebody you haven’t met before if you have a bit of experience there.”
The event itself had its own challenges. Windy conditions — never ideal for kayaks — challenged the pair. They also had to play catch up against tough teams from South Africa and Germany when another boat unintentionally cut them off at the start. “We were lucky to finish where we did,” he said.
Maytom, a local eye surgeon, is a mainstay at the Nelson Kayak and Canoe Club. The 61-year-old first tried kayaking in 1980 when he still lived in South Africa and had friends paddling.
He immigrated to Canada in 1989, first coming to Rossland before settling in Nelson two years later. At the time there wasn’t much of a local kayak club, and Maytom credits former Olympian Jason Rusu with turning the club into what it is today.
Rusu was named the top master male athlete of the year last week by Canoe Kayak BC.
“He’s a way better paddler than I’ll ever be,” said Maytom. “He’s a person who’s had proper instruction and can help somebody get started. He’s a huge asset to our club and our town. I really need to give him credit for getting this club going.”
Maytom never had someone like Rusu to teach him the sport. He was 25 when he started paddling and his success stems from years of work on his own. Decades later he still gets a thrill from being in the water.
“I just discovered this sport that I really enjoyed and I’ve just continued with it for the rest of my life,” he said.
“I still enjoy it.”