Cheung dives into challenge of Longest Day

Dunedin multisport athlete Alex Cheung, about to go kayaking on  Otago Harbour last month. Photo:...
Dunedin multisport athlete Alex Cheung, about to go kayaking on Otago Harbour last month. Photo: Wayne Parsons
Alex Cheung never gave a second thought to adventure racing until he discovered Dunedin’s backyard.

While most opt for the Coast to Coast two-day race before taking on the challenging Longest Day, Cheung is  taking an all-or-nothing approach.

"I don’t know if I’ll every get another opportunity, so it has to be the main event," he said of his decision to compete in the one-day event on February 10.

Cheung, a 23-year old master’s student in bioethics and health law, has  exchanged life on the Hawaiian island of Oahu for one of student flatting in Dunedin last January.

After representing Hawaii in the F2 200m  at the 2011 junior world kayak championship in Berlin, he then began to look towards longer course options, and the following year entered the relay section of the Maui Jim Molokai Challenge, a 53km paddle race across the Kaiwai Channel from Molokai to Oahu, with school friend Aaron Madden.

Swapping a life of sun, surf and water sport, to one of four seasons in one day and take-it-as-it-comes Dunedin, Cheung, who is called Scanner by most, discovered the great outdoors surrounding New Zealand’s first city.

Joining a couple of clubs led to him finding out about the Coast to Coast event.

"I wouldn’t say I have too much of a background in multisport.

"Growing up, my main sport was sprint kayaking, and also did a little bit of water polo and ocean surf ski as well as wakama," Cheung said.

"When I got here I really wanted to stay active in a way that would allow me to get out into nature, so I took to trail running and then joined the kayak club and eventually heard about the Coast to Coast which triggered my passion for seeing as much of New Zealand as I possibly could while I’m here."

Although his running since his arrival in Dunedin has improved and given him an indicator as to what will be required on the 33km alpine run section, road cycling is  something he has taken time coming to terms with.

"The first time I showed up to Monday night racing with Cycling Otago, I showed up barefoot and in shorts, not a very tight T-shirt, had never bunch-ridden before, and didn’t even have my number on the correct way," he quipped.

"But it’s been a great learning experience. I’ve been putting a lot of emphasis on the skills that will hopefully help me survive and avoid any crashes."

But there is no doubting Cheung’s competitive spirit, commitment and his willingness to learn the tricks of the trade.

Crashing on the mountain bike section during the recent Taieri Mouth multisport race, Cheung cared little for his bloodied legs and arms, picked himself up, and continued on to finish the race, crossing in fifth place.

While confident in his kayaking ability and having matured as a cyclist in recent times, Cheung plans to use the December and January period to familiarise himself with the terrain and technical aspects associated with each stage. With two-time Coast to Coaster Graeme Newton and kayaking coach Brendan O’Neill heading his support crew, there is no doubting confidence, experience and preparation will see him through the 243km journey.

"I think stringing all the disciplines required for the event over 12-plus hours is going to be a whole new feat in itself."

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