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by Chris Tobin

Dave Thew’s hopes of having his name added to the Guinness Book of Records have been shattered.

Last year, Mr Thew broke the world marathon Tai Chi record, performing the Chinese martial art at the Alpine Sports Centre in Temuka for 30 hours and 15 minutes.

His time eclipsed the old world record of 29 hours and, delighted at his success, Mr Thew, a gardener at Timaru’s Margaret Wilson Home, prepared to send the necessary documentation to Guinness Book of Records to obtain official ratification.

The documentation was to include video evidence to support his application.

A professional videographer had been employed to do the job.

“He came recommended and had glowing references. I gave him access to the rules and regulations which Guinness required from the videographer.

“I asked him: Can you do this? He assured me it wouldn’t be a problem.”

But it was.

“He set up cameras and we stipulated that we needed two frames in view all the time. He said ‘yep’. We opened our home to him so he could stay and we gave him food while it was going on.”

Having successfully achieved his challenging goal, Mr Thew waited for the video evidence from the videographer to accompany his formal record application.

“He sent us a couple of sample files and said this was the start, there was more to come. We [Mr Thew and his wife Michelle] noticed only one time frame reference, not two.

“We waited and didn’t hear from him; we sent emails and tried ringing. Nothing.”

In the interim, Mr Thew was contacted by a Canadian, Sam Michaud, who said he was going after Mr Thew’s pending world record.

Things appeared to be looking up when Mr Thew eventually made contact with the elusive videographer.

“He said he was having trouble uploading but could supply through a Google drive file. He assured me it was all up to scratch.”

Mr Thew sent through his application to Guinness believing the all-important video footage would be uploaded and accessible. He paid the videographer $900.

The Guinness assessment of his application was expected to take three months.

On the last day of those three months, Guinness contacted Mr Thew and asked: Where’s the video content?

“I couldn’t believe it’, Mr Thew said.

“It was gut-wrenching.”

Poised . . . Dave Thew going through one of his routines. PHOTO: CHRIS TOBIN

Trying to get hold of the videographer, he found he had relocated to the UK and set up a business over there.

He managed to track him down. The videographer said he would upload files in smaller files.

“Once again, it became cat-and-mouse and in the end he gave me a reference list of video files he’d uploaded that were on the application portal.”

Mr Thew checked the files and found there were two fewer files uploaded than were on the list.

“It took a week to get hold of him. He told me I must be mistaken. All the files had been uploaded and were correct.

“I noticed there were still a lot of files being uploaded. I sat and it took three days to check through them. There were 51 files. I found they had been padded out and doubled; four hours (of video) was missing and there were time discrepancies.

“Because we’d sent the application through it couldn’t be undone. There was no option for us to delete what had been doubled up. We could only add more, making it more of a mess.”

The videographer couldn’t be contacted again and when he resurfaced said what Mr Thew required had not been in his contract.

“I found he was trying to deceive us and I couldn’t go through any more.”

Last Thursday evening, Mr Thew withdrew his world record application.

“I had no option. If we added another 50 files, Guinness wouldn’t sort it.

“It was a very hard decision but I just couldn’t do it anymore.”

To rub salt into the wound, the Canadian broke Mr Thew’s time and his record was now awaiting a decision from Guinness.

“I supported him in his challenge. That’s the way we do things.”

Mr Thew has ruled out any possibility of another record attempt.

“I’m going to carry on teaching; it’s about helping people help themselves and there might be some other challenge in the future.

“I plan to keep competing in New Zealand and internationally as well.”

He and his wife intended pursuing recompense of the money they paid to the videographer.

“It’s not our money; people sponsored us. We feel we have to get it back for them.”

He was pleased something good came out of the whole sorry saga which had dragged on for 10 months: a total of $3000 was raised for the South Canterbury Cancer Society and “so many people came together”.