BAINBRIDGE _ For once, Serge Corbin finished last.
That was kind of the point Saturday, though, as the winningest paddler in the General Clinton Canoe Regatta's 50-year history closed its first Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony to cheers from 220 dinner guests.
"It's a good honor," said Corbin, 55, who earned the first of his record 28 Class C-2 Pro victories with older brother Claude in 1974. "It's all nice. For me, I did what I had to do and I won them. I know I worked hard to win them."
Richard Toupin, the president of the Quebec Marathon Canoe Federation, accepted a framed Clinton Hall award on behalf of Claude Corbin.
"I tried to bring him, but he has sore legs," Serge Corbin said of Claude, who won the first of his eight C-2 titles with fellow Hall of Famer Luc Robillard in 1970.
The Corbins and Robillard joined local iron men Ted LaMonica of Oneonta and Bob Zaveral of Mount Upton in the first class, which also included 32-time finisher Peter Heed and Jan Povlock _ the first female to complete the 70-mile Susquehanna-River run from Cooperstown to Bainbridge 10 times. Povlock joined the Clinton's 700 Club in 1986 and has 15 finishes overall.
Heed was the first paddler to speak on stage Saturday under the giant, red-and-white-striped tent at General Clinton Park.
"I really am last in terms of athletic ability," said Heed, a former member of the U.S. Marathon Canoe Team who lives in New Hampshire. "In most canoe races, only the pros compete. But this race? You people celebrate everybody."
LaMonica may not be a pro, but he isn't just anybody as the 73-year-old extended his all-time record for 70-mile finishes to 41 on Monday.
"I'm honored to be with the paddlers _ the racers," said LaMonica, who completed the inaugural Regatta in 1963. "I'm not a racer as compared to the Corbins. I'm competitive with whoever's near me, but I'm not out to win every race.
"It is an honor (to be at the top of the 700 Club)," LaMonica continued. "I can't beat the Corbins and such, but I'm ahead of him in the races. There are six or seven who have 35 races in. Well, it's going to take them six years if I stop right now for them to go by me."
LaMonica said he intends to paddle in the Clinton for as long as he can.
"If I don't do it, I won't be on this river," he said. "I will not come down here and watch other canoers. I just can't do that."
Following short acceptance speeches by Povlock and Robillard, Zaveral joined the Hall as one of two men to win C-1 and C-2 pro titles.
"I never look at that until somebody mentions it," said Zaveral, the 1981 C-2 champ with Otego's Jeff Shultis who won the first C-1 race 10 years later. "It is quite an accomplishment."
Former U.S. Olympian Bruce Barton also won both pro races 10 years apart, joining Serge Corbin for a C-2 victory in 1990 and winning the solo event in 2000. Barton holds the all-time records in both races _ at 6 hours, 34 minutes, 34 seconds in the C-2 and at 7:12:16 in the C-1.
With 35 finishes, Zaveral is one of the paddlers chasing LaMonica for the top spot in the 700 Club. Although he didn't compete Monday, Zaveral said he plans to return soon.
"(Regatta historian) Dick Davie there, he got me going on this," said Zaveral, a former Unatego wrestler who turned paddling into a career as a competitor and the owner of Zaveral Racing Equipment in Mount Upton. "Who knows what would have happened? There may have been no ZRE or I might have just been in the relay races. Who knows?"
After Toupin stood in for Claude Corbin, Serge Corbin and his list of accomplishments closed the show.
Before his runner-up finish Monday, Corbin was 28-0 at the Clinton. Brother Claude is second in all-time Clinton wins, losing only once in nine tries. Andy Triebold, who teamed with Steve Lajoie to win Monday's C-2 race, is third with seven titles.
In addition to owning part of the fastest C-2 Clinton time in history, Serge Corbin won 21 straight Clinton races from 1985-2005.
Corbin also has dominated the other two parts of the Triple Crown of Canoe Racing. He has won the 240-mile AuSable River Canoe Marathon 18 times, including a record finish of 13:58:08 in 1994, and the La Classique 25 times.
"This one guy is so far above other people in a canoe," Heed said of Corbin during his induction speech. "By far and away, he is the greatest paddler who ever lived."
Corbin's "Thank you and good night" ended the ceremony, which also honored Clinton founder Charlie Hinkley and former Regatta chairmen Wayne King, Ed Roelle, Cliff Wade and Lew Whitney as contributors.
"I hardly know what to say after 50 years," said Roelle, 90. "I never thought I'd live this long."
Hinkley and Wade were honored posthumously as family members accepted their awards. All 12 of Hall of Famers received standing ovations.
"There are a lot of happy people and a lot of humble people. It was just amazing," fourth-year Regatta chairman John Harmon said of the first Hall of Fame ceremony. "Everything went smoothly. It was just awesome."
Harmon didn't seem to think maintaining the fanfare for next year's ceremony would be a problem.
"I think they're going to have their hands full again trying to figure out next year's class," Harmon said of the committee-based panel that selected the Class of 2012. "I think they're going to cut it back to six or eight ... but they had a monumental task picking those 12 and there are another 12 waiting to get in.
"I think the committee did an awesome job narrowing down the 12 that they got, he continued. "They're very deserving and they mean a lot to the sport."
Dean Russin can be reached at email@example.com or 607-432-1000, ext. 215.
Serge Corbin highlights Saturday's Induction Ceremony as 220 attend dinner
BAINBRIDGE _ For once, Serge Corbin finished last.
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