Birkett, Zondi shatter K2 record

2013-03-09 00:00

DURBAN — Andy Birkett and Sbonelo Zondi erased their Dusi nightmares as they cruised to a comprehensive victory in yesterday’s The Unlimited Non-Stop Dusi canoe marathon, smashing the overall K2 race record by 17 minutes and bringing down the curtain on a magical two-week Dusi frenzy in KwaZulu-Natal.

Having suffered disappointing mishaps in their primary focus of the year, The Unlimited Dusi, two weeks ago, which saw them finish third and fourth respectively, Zondi and Birkett came into the 110 km “Dusi in a day” event with just one goal and that was to walk away victorious — precisely what they did.

“It’s fantastic to have won. Sbonelo and I combined really well and worked hard together throughout the day,” said Birkett.

“I don’t think it was until late in the day that I thought we might have a chance of getting the record, but never did I ever think we’d beat it by as much as 17 minutes.

“All my tears from Dusi are gone,” added an ecstatic Zondi. “I’m very happy right now. It’s an amazing position to be in and this is one for my future.”

The pair tussled with the likes of Thulani Mbanjwa and Zonele Nzuza, Richard and Nhlanhla Cele, Loveday Zondi and Siseko Ntondini, and Gavin Shuter and Carl Folscher from the minute the gun went. However, a decisive break on the Yellow Rock portage, a third of the way through the day, saw them fade off into the distance and remain well clear of their nearest rivals for the rest of the race.

“We sat back initially because guys were quite aggressive and making silly mistakes, so it was much better once things spread out.

“Once we opened up a bit of a gap, we just looked to go at our own pace and it was a matter of trying to keep it going all the way to the finish, which we managed to do,” said Birkett.

Having occupied second for much of the first half of the day, an unfortunate mishap at Hippo Rapid saw Mbanjwa and Nzuza break their flange, a major part of the steering mechanism, which they were able to repair only some way down the road at the Inanda dam wall portage.

This opened the door for Gauteng-based Loveday Zondi and Siseko Ntondini to move up from third and helped them find a new gear as they aimed for Blue Lagoon in Durban.

“We’d been going at quite a steady pace up until Tops Needle, but when our seconds told us we were in second place, I couldn’t believe it. We just pushed as hard as we could and it all paid off,” said Zondi.

“This is my biggest result ever and I’m very happy with our race today,” added Ntondini.

Mbanjwa and Nzuza suffered further heartache as they watched Shuter and Folscher cruise past them into third place, a position they held all the way to the finish, leaving Mbanjwa and Nzuza to finish fourth and the Cele brothers fifth.

A monumental effort from Marc Germiquet saw him claim the honours as the first K1 across the line and sixth position overall after he enjoyed a ding-dong battle with Mark Mulder throughout the day before Mulder broke just below Island Rapid.

One of the many hot topics of the day was the remarkable mixed doubles and women’s doubles results as husband and wife combination Jen and Jacques Theron claimed a remarkable seventh place finish. Women’s winners Abby Adie and Hilary Pitchford held off a spirited effort from their male competitors to claim eighth.

Adie and Pitchford also added their names to the record book as they obliterated the women’s K2 record by 28 minutes, one they will treasure for many years to come.

“To finish in the top 10 overall and break the record is just amazing,” said Pitchford.

“We had a really great race, with a couple of swims around Hippo, but Abs [Adie] was so strong and I couldn’t have asked for a better partner out there today.

“It was my first Non-Stop and I had a really great time. It was really tough and I definitely took strain at times, but it was great!” added Adie.

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