WARRNAMBOOL paddler Ben Johnson battled contrasting emotions after winning his first medal at the Australian Canoe Marathon Championships.
Johnson, 42, claimed silver in the men’s 35-45 years section at the annual championships on Lake Wendouree on Saturday.
He finished the 23-kilometre test — five laps of a four-kilometre course plus a shorter lap to finish — in one hour, 54 minutes and 35 seconds.
Johnson, whose previous-best finish at nationals was fifth in 2011, said he was “really happy” to win a medal in the six-paddler field.
But he rued hitting the wall with two kilometres to go, which opened the door for New South Wales’ Jamie McCrudden to pass him in the last 100 metres.
“To be honest I was really enjoying it until the last half lap. I was feeling strong. I had 150 metres on the guy with two kilometres to go,” he said.
“It was like hitting a wall. I knew he was coming at me, too. For him to pass me in the last 100 metres was quite crushing.”
Johnson began kayaking about six years ago after shifting from Sydney to Warrnambool to be a minister at St John’s Presbyterian Church.
He took up the sport to immerse himself in the Warrnambool community beyond his church congregation.
But what started as a hobby soon became a passion, which took him to Denmark for the World Canoe Marathon Championships last year.
The sport has also become a family affair. Johnson trains with his children on the Merri and Hopkins rivers during the week.
“We’re on the water regularly. Warrnambool is lovely for that. Five minutes and you’re on one river or another,” he said.
“It’s a great sport because it can fit into pockets in your day. You can go at six in the morning or six in the evening, which is what we normally do.”
Johnson was one of four members in his family who contested the annual championships.
His children Isaac, 16, Alana, 14, and Ellie, 11, also tested themselves against the best young kayakers in the country.
Isaac finished ninth in the boys’ 18 years section, contested on a 23-kilometre course, while Alana was sixth in the girls’ 16 years section over 14.6 kilometres. Ellie was runner-up in the girls’ 12 years section over six kilometres.