Battle of wits, styles at Dusi

2009-01-14 00:00

Today’s Hansa Powerade Dusi Marathon is set to be a battle of wits, with two contrasting styles up against each other for the men’s K1 title.

Defending champion Ant Stott expects a massive challenge from last year’s K2 winner Michael Mbanjwa, with Shaun Rubenstein also poised to make a bid for the top spot.

Mbanjwa has the hopes of an entire community on his shoulders, with many of his native Nagle Dam Valley residents looking to him to deliver a historic first ever Dusi K1 win by a black paddler.

“There has been a lot of talk, with everyone at home saying that this has to be my year,” the soft-spoken Mbanjwa said at yesterday’s media conference.

Now based in Gauteng, Mbanjwa has been back in the Valley for the last few months in preparation for his bid to follow through on Robert Lembethi’s hope for a black paddler to triumph in the epic three-day marathon.

“My tripping went well and I am feeling strong, and I just hope that it all comes together,” he added.

Mbanjwa was quick to add that he will need to be at his running best to surpass Stott, whose paddling prowess will come into play in tomorrow’s crucial middle sector.

“There is no way that I can keep up with guys like Ant and ‘Rubby’ in the water, so I will have to try and build a big lead [today].”

Stott, bulked up after his World Marathon Championship exertions last year, said he was hoping for a more technical race, which would play into his hands.

“If the river is slower, then that will help me as I enjoy that side of things, but I will have to really work hard on the second day because I know I will give a lead away to Michael and Shaun on the first day,” the defending champion said.

In the women’s race, clear favourite Abbey Miedema confirmed that she will be emigrating to Canada at the end of the month, but added that she will definitely be back for the Dusi.

“I love this race, and will always be back. I will see how it goes in Canada, and you never know, I may be back.”

Local talent Robyn Kime is one to watch out for, while Abie Adie and Hillary Pitchford will also challenge for a podium placing.

With water levels higher than last year and the river in good condition, this year’s race could unfold into a classic with Mbanjwa’s strong running tussling with Stott’s undoubted prowess in the water.

Mbanjwa’s partner in last year’s K2 win, Martin Dreyer, has opted out of this year’s race. He has instead focused his energy on helping unearth the next line of Dusi winners.

His Change a Life project has seen 12 promising paddlers from the Robert Lembethi Canoeing Club enter this year’s race, and the team goal is for 10 of them to finish inside the top 50 on Saturday.

Dreyer said if that goal is reached, he will feel as proud as he has for any of his own seven wins in the marathon.

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