Ken's kayak success 'blows' the club roof

TUGUN Surf Life Saving Club president Dave Mitchell and the club's members were so thrilled when kayaker Ken Wallace won a gold medal that their cheers "almost blew the roof off the club".

The club members and staff gathered at the Tugun Surf Club to watch Wallace, himself a Tugun surf lifesaver, as he claimed gold and bronze in the K1 500m and K1 1000m kayaking at the Beijing Olympics last week.

Mr Mitchell said he wanted to throw a celebration for his mate, with Wallace due to fly home today along with immediate family members.

"We'll give him a few days to recover and then see where he's at," Mr Mitchell said.

"I'll put on a few drinks for the club members on either Friday or Saturday, probably Saturday I'd say."

Mr Wallace has been a surf lifesaver at Tugun for the past eight years. He also patrols at Palm Beach on occasion and is a former ironman competitor.

He took up kayaking to assist with the ski leg of his ironman competitions. "He's been in the top four (kayakers) this year, so we knew he had a shot at it, but we didn't realise just how much kick he had in him," Mr Mitchell told the Tweed Daily News.

"He's a good all-rounder. He'd jump in and do another thing if we needed someone or if we were a man short.

"He's always been such a nice bloke, easy going and laid back. You wouldn't find a person who had a bad word about him." The club president was yesterday still waiting to speak to Wallace because "he seemed to be on the phone all the time", but had sent him a text message of congratulations.

He said he was hoping the gold medal win would generate some outside interest in the surf club.

"It would be great if we got a boost in memberships or increase in patronage," he said. He joked that the junior surf lifesavers won't be leaving Wallace's side when he returns to patrols and that he will be forced to sign autographs on Tugun beach.

But he said that wouldn't bother him.

"He'd never get a big head or anything, that's just not in Ken's nature."

Wallace powered his way to an impressive gold medal in the K1 500m on Saturday -- just 24 hours after taking out bronze in the K1 1000m -- when he stormed through the field in the second half to hit the lead with only 20 metres to go.

He caught Canadian race favourite Adam van Koeverden to win by 0.378 seconds with 1000m gold medallist, Britain's Tim Brabants, grabbing bronze.

Mr Mitchell has no doubts Mr Wallace will try out for the 2012 Olympic Games in London. "Definitely," he said.

"He's only 25 so the next one I'd say definitely," he said.



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