Club manager backs member paddlers

2014-02-15 00:00

NATAL Canoe Club and Dusi Canoe Marathon general manager Brett Austen-Smith was not afraid to say who he was rooting for yesterday.

As a member of the Natal Canoe Club (NCC) based at Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg, Austen-Smith said he was backing fellow club members Andy Birkett and Abbey Adie to finish in first place in their races.

“Andy is a member of the NCC, and it would mean a lot for us. It would be fantastic,” he said.

“Sbonelo [Zondi] is also a hell of a nice guy, and through this, he and Andy have built up an amazing friendship.”

Birkett and Zondi currently lead the men’s K2 with an over eight-minute lead over second-placed Hank McGregor and Jasper Mocke.

In the women’s race, Austen-Smith backed Adie and her partner Anna Adamova for the same reason, and said it would also be nice to see a different face on the podium.

“Robyn Kime and Abbey Ulansky have dominated for so long,” he said. Kime and Ulansky hold a three-minute lead over Adie and Adamova going into the final stage to Blue Lagoon today.

Austen-Smith said he was also impressed with how the young paddlers were faring in the race, particularly U18 pair Damon Stamp and Mthobisi Cele, who finished in the top 10 among the men.

“They’re racing in serious company and they’ve managed to handle themselves well. They’re definitely a crew for the future. I’d like to think that they could be the next Birkett and Zondi.”

He was also impressed with the Haw sisters — Tamika and Bianca — who were in third place in the women’s race. Although he said anything can happen on the day, he thought it would be a tough ask to expect them to finish ahead of the immensely experienced pairs of Kime and Ulansky, and Adie and Adamova.

Bianca was featured in The Witness last year after she had managed a top 10 finish in the junior category of the MTB World Championships in Pietermaritzburg last year.

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