GWF's Kriek on Race for Water, friend Roger Federer's career
February 15, 2007
AHN Exclusive: Two-Time Australian Open Champ Takes To Cycling For Charity
February 15, 2007 4:17 p.m. EST
Christopher Cornell - All Headline News Sports Reporter
Naples, FL (AHN) - Two-time Australian Open champion and reigning senior Wimbledon doubles champion Johan Kriek will be returning home to his native South Africa next month. His once-a-year annual trip to his homeland comes with a specific purpose this time as he is coming as a fundraiser.
Kriek will be taking part in one of the world's largest and most popular cycling races, the Cape Argus Pick 'n' Play Cycle tour, to raise money for his Global Water Foundation.
The Cape Argus tour is a scenic 65-mile, one day cycling race that is held in Cape Town. The trek begins in downtown Cape Town and rides along the Indian Ocean, bottoming out at Smitswinkle Bay before heading around a clockwise track back to Cape Town. The path takes riders through the mountain range of Table Mountain, providing some of the most spectacular sceneary in Africa.
The race caps off a week of festivities which begins Mar. 4 and culminates on Sunday Mar. 11 with the big race.
"The Cape Argus bicycle race is an absolute event, kind of an institution very much like Augusta, Georgia (for golf)," Kriek, who is a native of Pongola, told AHN. "It's the biggest sporting event in South Africa in terms of its participants. It is also the largest bicycle race in the world with 37,000 participants."
Kriek and six other riders will be mounting their bikes in support of the Global Water Foundation, which Kriek founded in July of 2006. The Global Water Foundation was established to help provide clean water to children on the African continent. Its first project helped 5,000 youths in Uganda.
"After meeting with some high-end officials in South Africa we decided to start this foundation to do something for third world kids," Kriek explained. "It is a groundbreaking foundation by which we will hopefully seek out or projects will seek us out to raise some money to fund some projects so that we can provide clean water for kids."
Kriek has also recruited several clean water ambassadors to lend their efforts to the foundation. John McEnroe has been added as an ambassador and several other Olympic athletes are also joining in the fight to provide the third world with drinkable water.
Kriek became famous in the tennis world when he won the Australian Open back-to-back in 1981 and 1982. He turned pro in 1978 when he moved to south Florida. He became an American citizen in 1982 and finished his pro career with 14 singles titles and eight doubles titles.
Kriek says he took up cycling to try and stay in shape.
"I started cycling just as a way to stay fit because I don't like running so much anymore," Kriek chuckled. "I started riding about six months ago and really fell in love with it. And I thought, 'Gee, I'd really love to go back to South Africa and run in this huge event and raise some money for the foundation.' Initially it started as a personal question and it turned into 'Let's do something for the foundation.'"
In preparation for the 65-mile trek, Kriek rode a 100-mile race after a month of training. He has never participated in the Cape Argus tour before.
Kriek and his six riders organized their fund raising efforts at the last moment and still managed to raise between $20 - $30,000 for the foundation. Next year, they hope to have as many as 100 riders participating in the tour to raise money.
Kriek hasn't abandoned organized tennis for the cycling world just yet, as evidenced by his senior doubles win at Wimbledon in 2006. He stays active in tennis by playing fund raising tournaments throughout the year.
The two-time Grand Slam champ also pays close attention to what is going on with both the men's and women's side of professional tennis. He says tennis is thriving right now and holds promise for the future, Roger Federer in particular.
"I think that it is a pretty exciting time for tennis, (particularly) the men's side," Kriek says. "We saw the Australian Open get finished a few weeks ago, unfortunately on the women's side the final was a bit of a dud, but you know those things happen. Somebody is not there completely mentally and that's what happened to Sharapova.
"But it just showed how Federer has absolutely solidified himself as head and shoulders, maybe even more than head and shoulders, above the field. And we are probably witnessing a genius in the making. He could be even more so if he gets pushed a little bit to where he could show more of his talents."
Kriek says he doesn't see anyone pushing Federer out of his No. 1 ranking anytime soon, but he'd like for a challenger to arise to put pressure on the 11-time Grand Slam winner.
"I mean the guy has to have a broken leg, play with a snorkel and fins on," Kriek said with a laugh. "I don't think anybody is really pushing him too hard. I mean the guy is just incredible.
"I hope (someone does) because I want to see how good Federer can become. You know he's kind of one of those guys that he only puts so much effort towards what he needs. That's what's remarkable about this guy."
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