Archive for February 2012
The Unlimited Dusi Canoe Marathon came to an end on Saturday afternoon in Blue Lagoon, Durban. An estimated 1 800 paddlers took to the three day 110km treacherous course with the hopes of being the next title holders. Defending champions Andrew Birkett and Jason Graham became the first pair in 22 years to win back-to-back K2 titles when they won the final stage of the Dusi to claim the 61st edition of the race in a time of 2:15:17 and an overall time of 7:43:02.
The Change a Life team of Mbanjwa and Zondi finally had a trouble-free day after facing all sorts of problems in the opening two days. First was the issue of the broken rudder and seats while the second saw them tipping over in a massive pool at Marianni Foley which made it close to impossible to take the lead from Birkett and Graham in the last 35kms between Inanda Dam and Blue Lagoon.
The team demonstrated powerful running and paddling ability as they took on the gruelling Burma Road portage. Mbanjwa and Zondi pulled out all the stops in the attempt to catch up with Hank McGregor and Len Jenkins but fell short and were rewarded by finishing third on the podium after they crossed the line in an overall time of 7:54.24. With support from the Minister of Sports in Kwa-Zulu Natal and the Mayor of Durban, injuries and minor setbacks did not deter the spirit of the Change a Life village champions who managed to finish with five boats in the top 20.
Kwanda Mhlophe and Lance Kime had a flawless race finishing 4th and were awarded gold medals. Mmeli Cele, paddling with Lucas Mthalane, came in 9th also received gold – and what a happy ending after last year’s tragedy when his boat broke and he had to withdraw from a junior race he had completely dominated and give up R9 000 in prize money, a fortune for a subsistence family.
The Silver medal recipients were Thomas Ngidi and John Ngcobo who came in 12th, this represented a massive victory for Thomas who had a bad fall on Day 1 but decided, bravely, to press on. The final pair of paddlers to come in the Top 20 was Skhumbuzo Ngidi with partner Nkosi Cele who came in 20th.
The results for the rest of the Change a life team who were in the Top 100 are as follows:
› Zonele Nkuza and Mhlonishwa Hlongwane – 27th
› Mthobisie Cele u16 and Emmanuel Kirk u17 were the young paddlers racing u18 and they came 73rd
› Paulos Shozi and Thembinkosi Ngcobo came 75th
› Richard and his brother Nhlanhla Cele came 98th
The Cele brothers were lying in 7th position on Day 1 but due to an ankle injury Richard had to carry the boat on his own on day 2 and 3 while his brother hopped along right beside him using the paddle as a crutch. Richard said that “plan A was to finish in the Top 10, plan B was to finish in the Top 20 and plan C was to FINISH. Martin is not only impressed by the performance of Zonele Nkuza, who although he has not yet made it into the Change a Life team, finished an impressive 27th, but also by of the courage and determination the team demonstrated after the many challenges they encountered on Day 1.
Ursula was at the finish line watching as all the Change a life paddlers came in and said “It’s always so exhilarating watching the guys finish the race knowing that they did their very best. The Martin Dreyer Change a Life Academy has not only transformed these young men into world class athletes but also local heroes to whom the village youngsters can look up and strive to be like. The energy and excitement from the locals who come out in their numbers to support their village heroes is overwhelming.”
There was a dramatic change among the leading paddlers during the first hour of the second stage of the Unlimited Dusi. Defending champions Andrew Birkett and Jason Graham were desperately defending their hard won position at the front of the field. The Change a life dream team of Thulani Mbanjwa and Sibonelo Zondi had slipped back during the day’s proceedings, from a rookie swim at Gauging weir and having to stop and empty their boat 3 times due to faulty pumps. Change a Life Kwanda and Lance caught took advantage of their misfortune, catching them up at the Dam Bridge and then pipping on the finish line line, to place an incredible 3rd overall.
Injury, stitches and hospitalisation were just some of the challenges the Change a life team had to face today. Thomas Ngidi who was in the 12th position took a tumble early in the race on a rocky downhill area injuring his leg and arm but managed to persever to finish 17th.
Shaun Maphanga , paddling with Mkhonzeni Gumede got injured 5min into the race they swam at Earnie Pierce Weir. A Canoe freakishly impacted between Shaun’s legs…. long story short – it ruptured his urethra and he was hospitalised overnight. Nhlanhla, one of the Cele brothers who was 9th also severly damaged his ankle, so much so, he couldn’t walk. His brother, Richard Cele soldiered on, carrying their Canoe on his own, whilst Nhlanhla bravely hoped along on one leg.
In spite of the injuries, Martin convinced the Cele brothers and Thomas to race – saying “plan A was to finish top 10, plan B was to finish top 20 and plan C was to FINISH. We now on plan C. Nhlanhla, this is like Life, its not easy, do what you need to do today to finish, Rich carry the boat, and Nhlanhla, use your paddle as a crutch….“.
They lost many positions (94th) but the goal was to complete that leg of the race – mission accomplished. Lucas and Mmeli took control of the flooding river, paddling superbly to maintain their top 10 position [I am so happy for Mmeli to get through the Day unscathed, because last year he was absolutely devastated when his hopes of winning the R9000 first Junior prize were sadly washed downstream when he wrapped his canoe and had to catch a ride to the finish].
Skhumbuso and Nkosi paddled flawlessly to climb 6 positions from 24th to 18th overall. With their ‘tails up’, they will go into Day 3 with all guns blazing.
Stan Ursula and Jonathan continue to support and cheer the guys on.
Change a life still has 5 boats in the Top 20 and 3 in the Top 10 [CAL is currently 3rd, 4th, 9th, 17th,& 18th overall]. Tomorrow promises to be another exciting day as there is the infamous Everest of Dusi Portages – Burma Hill.
With a field of over 1 800 paddlers assembled for the start, the 61st Unlimited Dusi Canoe Marathon got underway this morning. The first day of the race did not disappoint – showcasing the talents of paddlers who were not only trying to win but also those who have come to compete with themselves and the great uMsundusi river and its rapids. With extreme weather conditions forecast for the duration of the race, the strength and endurance of the paddlers will be put to the test over the next three days. The race made a great start with defending champions Andrew Birkett and Jason out to win their second title. They felt the pressure from the Change a life dream team Thulani and Eric who were hot on their tails. Day 1 comes to an end with the Change a life team having achieved incredible results. There are 5 teams in the Top 12, although Martin had to run around attending to two leg injuries from Thomas and one of the Cele brothers. It was a sprint to the finish with the Change a Life team coming home to an epic traditional village welcome from their local supporters in the valley – only 3 seconds behind the defending champs: Birkett and Graham. Stan Ursula and Jonathan were there to witness Kwanda Mhlophe and Lance Kime come in 5th position, Lucas and Mele in 8th, the Cele brothers 9th and Thomas and John Themba in 12th. Martin is incredibly proud of his Change a life Zulu’s. More tomorrow…….
With a day to go before the big race, there is nothing you can do now regarding race prep, except to patiently let the minutes tick by – with your feet up on the Couch, lying in the horizontal postion, devising a race strategy that will get you to the finish in your quickest time possible. For some (Lucas & Mmeli), that race strategy will have input from what went wrong whilst practicing….
LIVE & LEARN….
In theory that is….
Reality has it, that most (Change a Life included) are running around still trying to get their ‘ducks in a row’. Right now I am fixing broken paddles to have them ready as spares, half filling 25l water containers to put in the chest freezer (tomorrow morning you add water to the frozen half and you have instant iced water available), replacing torn splash covers from the weekends race and so it goes on….
But now its the time of truth, where what you put in, is what you’ll get out.
Race predictions: Race favourites Andrew Birkett and Jason Graham have done their usual ‘flying under the Radar’, where none of their competitors have been able to match themselves against this formidable crew – why? because they have not raced against anyone, thus not showing what their true potential is. Which worked perfectly against Ant Stott & Michael Mbanjwa in the last doubles Dusi, as they completely under-estimated their opponents.
‘Change a Life’ Sibonelo Zondi & Thulani Mbanjwa are undoubtly the fastest crew on land and because they can hold their own on the water too (10th at the 2011 World Marathon Champs in Singapore), makes them an extremely dangerous combination. However stringing 3 perfect days in a row, will be the fate that decides whether they will be crossing the finish line first at Blue Lagoon, come Saturday.
Hank Mc Gregor & Len Jenkins by the mere fact that they have both won Dusi single titles, makes them a threat for the top of the podium, not too mention their list of amazing achievements on the water. However if you cannot recover 100% after Campbells portage, with the ‘Hole in the Wall’ extra, to put full power into the paddle, then you ain’t gonna claim numero uno in this unique Canoe race of running & paddling.
Other top 5 position crews are Shaun Rubenstein (currently still holds the Junior Dusi record) and Steve Farrel(fastest runner without a boat), Craig Turton (Non-Stop Dusi winner) and legend surfski paddler Jasper Mocke, and Lance Kime & Change a life Kwanda Mhlophe.
Then the bun fight for the much sought after Top Ten Gold Medals will be the ‘Change a Life’ crews of the Cele Brothers (winners of the Campbells to Dusi Bridge Race), Lucas Mthalane & Mmeli Cele, Thomas Ngidi(3rd overall in 2010 Dusi) & John Ngcobo, Biggs Brothers, the Trautman Brothers and Piers Cruikshanks and Mike Stewart.