A WARRNAMBOOL paddler will join some of Australia’s best as he prepares to debut at the Canoe Marathon World Championships.
Ben Johnson, 42, will contest the 40-to-45-years class at the championships at Copenhagen, Denmark on September 18 and 19.
Johnson is in London training with the Australian squad at Elmbridge Canoe Club in the lead-up to the event.
The opportunity to paddle alongside the nation’s elite comes courtesy of the open-age, under 23 and junior classes running from September 20 to 22.
Johnson, a minister at Warrnambool’s St John’s Presbyterian Church, said he was looking forward to the experience.
His overseas trip also includes a holiday with his family, who will remain in England while he competes.
Johnson said he hoped to place in the top 10 in the gruelling 21.5-kilometre event.
“The guy who won it last year is a guy from Australia, Mick Leveritt, he’s quite an athlete,” Johnson said.
“He’s 42 and still competing in open-age. He has won it the last five years in our age group.
“He’s the medal hope for my age group. I hope to be a couple of minutes behind him.”
Johnson has lived most of his life in Sydney but shifted to Warrnambool six years ago to work as a church minister.
He began paddling to become involved with the community and to have a social outlet beyond the congregation.
“I got into ministry a little bit earlier than that and I was looking for a way to stay engaged with the community, not get swallowed up by church folk,” he said.
“That was it for me, being involved in the kayak club.
“I’ve been into endurance, athletic stuff, triathlons and that stuff. I got into kayaking and I’ve really loved it.”
Johnson said Warrnambool had provided the perfect setting to pursue his passion.
The Merri River was ideal to train on during winter while the Hopkins River was spectacular in summer.
“It’s best to mix up the training. Once a week we do a long, slow paddle, 20 kilometres,” he said.
“Then either intervals or pyramids or technique sessions, you’re mixing it up all the time.”