Canadians win blokarting

By Anne-Marie Emerson

They came from the other side of the world to compete in the Masters Games, and it's been entirely worth it for Stephen Fennell and his partner Carolyn Carrothers.

In their first ever competitive blokarting race, the pair from Almonte in Ontario, Canada, took out the gold and the bronze in the recreational section of blokarting at Ohakea on the weekend.

"We're absolutely delighted," Mr Fennell said.

"And amazed," Ms Carrothers added. "I've only been blokarting about 10 times."

Mr Fennell and Ms Carrothers were keen sailors until one day Mr Fennell "stumbled upon" blokarting - a form of land sailing using small, manoeuvrable vehicles - on the internet.

"I said to Carolyn, 'we've got to have one of those'. So we ordered a blokart and that was it - we were hooked."

As far as they know, there is only one other blokarter in the whole state of Ontario.

"We practise in the carpark of a hockey stadium because we don't have any beaches," Mr Fennell said. "And over winter we can't practise at all. When we left to come to New Zealand there was 60cm of snow on the ground and it was -27C."

The couple enjoy blokarting for the adrenaline rush.

"I'm not that young and I have arthritis in my hands, but I can get in my blokart and be flying along at 80km/h in seconds," Ms Carrothers said.

And how do they feel about competing against each other? "Well, he's very competitive but I'm not," Ms Carrothers laughed.

Retired high school teachers, the pair received a scare last year when Mr Fennell discovered he had cancer. Although he now has a clean bill of health, Mr Fennell and Ms Carrothers are determined to make the most of life.

When they found out about the Masters Games being held in Wanganui, they decided to travel to New Zealand to compete. Their trip here was no mean feat, as they were caught up in a variety of cancelled flights. One night even saw them sleeping in a cafe in San Francisco.

They plan to spend some time looking around New Zealand - including a special trip to Papamoa to meet with Paul Beckett, who invented the blokart in 1999 - and will also go to Australia to visit their son.

Mr Fennell and Ms Carrothers said they were delighted by the blokarting community in New Zealand. The Palmerston North Blokarting Club lent them blokarts to compete with.

"They're such amazing people. Everybody is so much fun," Mr Fennell said.

The taste of success has them keen for more, Mr Fennell said.

"I have my eye on the United States national competitions next year, and we'll have to see what other competitions we can find."

- Wanganui Chronicle

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