Development paddlers score big ahead of Dusi

2013-02-08 00:00

WITH less than a week before the 2013 edition of The Unlimited Dusi canoe marathon, development paddlers have scored big thanks to a four-year deal confirmed by the KZN Department of Sport and Recreation.

The department has confirmed it is the official sponsor of development paddling at Natal Canoe Club (NCC), hosts and organisers of the Dusi.

Development paddling is a vital ingredient of the Dusi, whose course cutting through rural valleys where many youngsters sit on the river banks, year after year, harbouring dreams of one day being part of the event.

The late Robert Lembethe started bringing some talented youngsters into the fold and his legacy is remembered thanks to the exploits of current Dusi stars such as Sbonelo Zondi and Thulani Mbanjwa.

These paddlers have been an inspiration to a new generation seen at Dusi every year as the top contenders come up against rising and aspiring paddlers from the valley.

Race general manager Brett Austen-Smith said: “Development paddlers are an important element of the Dusi, not only as a social responsibility, but from the racing viewpoint as well. Some of these paddlers race competitively and it’s vital we keep them on the same level as other paddlers.”

Sponsorship for these paddlers includes entry to the race and being provided with three meals every day of the race. Tents, tables and chairs are provided, and the Natal Canoe Club’s development team of 10 paddlers are supplied with boats, paddles, clothing and camping equipment.

Said Austen-Smith: “We expect between 70 to 80 development paddlers and, as most are in the senior category, we multiply that by R825 and it’s a fair total. The department has made a substantial contribution, ensuring there is no compromise as far as the development paddlers are concerned and it maintains the professional approach of the Dusi.”

There’s more. The sponsorship includes the formation of an NCC academy. “The idea is to broaden the horizon of development paddling and we need to reach out to more than the current core bunch of 15 paddlers we have at NCC. We will visit schools and all areas to encourage growth in the initiative. Anyone will be welcome to try paddling and go further if they wish.

“A four-year programme has been drafted to ensure continuity and long-term development with the club considering candidates to run the academy,” said Austen-Smith.

The MEC for Arts, Culture, Sport and Recreation, Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Saphetha, said the province wanted to open doors to the Dusi for disadvantaged paddlers.

“For many years, canoeing was regarded as an elite sport with many people lacking the knowledge and know-how of paddling. Now we encourage all people to be a part of this exciting sport,” she said.

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