Chilled Hill happy to hover under the radar

Australia’s Cory Hill has a reputation on the ocean racing scene as a pretty laid-back character, an image that is well deserved.

It’s become a bit of a secret weapon for the South Australian-born paddler, lulling unsuspecting opponents into believing he doesn’t really care, before delivering a well-timed sucker punch to blow his rivals out of the water.

He’s the reigning ocean racing world champion, but despite this, very little has been said about his chances this weekend in the ICF Canoe Ocean Racing World Championships in Hong Kong.

And he doesn’t mind one bit.

 I can focus on the races that I do, and unfortunately I don’t get to every single race because I do work back home,” Hill said from Hong Kong this week.

“I do take this very seriously, but it’s not a full-time thing for me. I think it is a good thing for me that you sort of do get forgotten at the races you don’t attend, and people start to wonder if I’m still around or still racing.

“But I have no doubt in my mind that we are doing the work back home, and we are getting here to surprise people so they can remember me again.”

SURPRISE

So what form might that surprise take? No punter is ever going to show his full hand to early, but his opponents need to know Hill is feeling dangerously fit.

“I’m feeling really good in fact, it’s been a good lead-up to the World Championships, I’ve put a lot of effort into it this year,” he said.

“It feels like everything’s come together. I’m on a bit of a winning streak at the moment so I’d love to keep that going.”

 If his opponents are looking for a reason Hill can’t win, the man himself volunteers the information that he has never actually won in Hong Kong, despite several attempts.

“In five or six times I’ve come across here thinking I had a chance and finished with a lot of fourths and seconds, which are the places you don’t really want to finish,” he said.

“This year I can comfortably say I’ve come across here feeling really good, and I’ve put myself in the best possible position.

“I think it’s definitely a course that the Australians can feel comfortable paddling into. A lot of us are from a surf lifesaving background, so we do a lot of clubby races, and a lot of paddling into it.”

RECORD

Hill has the runs on the board. A second behind Rice at the inaugural World Championships in Portugal in 2013, followed by a barnstorming victory in the heaving swell of Tahiti in 2015 has made him the most successful male paddler in the sport’s short World Championship life.

If the wind picks up on Sunday, after a Saturday that was so calm the women’s race became more of a marathon than an ocean race, then Hill is likely to make his move early.

He knows he will need to be near the front for the final run home in the flatter conditions, in a quality field of quality sprint paddlers who prefer the sting taken out of the water.

“The last three to five kilometres is the bit that can really hurt me,” he said.

“I’ve been past there quite a few times, and you have a lot of really good flatwater paddlers like Sean Rice and Hank McGregor chasing you, or sitting in front of you.

“I feel confident. Portugal was really good for me, that was my breakthrough race to podium. Finsihing second, that’s when I probably thought this was a sport I could do well in.

“Tahiti it was a 3-metre swell and 30-knot winds, so I thought this is made for me. I felt I was blessed on the day to have those conditions.

“I do feel that way this weekend.”

PRESSURE

One thing for certain, Hill –  or ‘Chill’ as his Facebook page refers to him – is not likely to let the pressure of being defending champion get to him.

Although he does admit to pre-race nerves. To not experience the butterflies would not be normal, he believes.

“You do get nervous. You always have these thoughts about the race, but I think I deal with the nerves relatively well,” he said.

“I don’t rely on racing, I just love racing, so you’ve got to be very honest with yourself and understand that you are only as good as you can do on the day.

“Sometimes you have a bad day, that just happens. In saying that, it’s been three years since I started on a Fenn, and I’ve only had one race, a local race back home, where I’ve finished off the podium.

“I feel like I’m relaxed in races. You have to be realistic and just do the best you can. There are people out there who if they planned to get to Nine Pins first, and get their second, they do their heads in. That was their race plan and it’s gone.”

The 2017 ICF men’s Ocean Racing World Championships are due to start at 10am, local time.

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