Hungry for Dusi win

2014-12-04 00:00

SBONELO Khwela is one of a handful of talented young stars to have taken over the star’s mantle at the iconic Dusi Canoe Marathon of late and the 26-year-old is eager to get back on the waters of the Msundusi and Mngeni rivers in February 2015 to challenge for a maiden K1 title.

The EuroSteel/Red Bull athlete captured the hearts of many in 2013 when his fearless determination saw him clinch victories on stage one and two, before a gut-wrenching mishap at Pumphouse Weir on the final day shattered his and thousands of others’ dreams of a maiden K1 title, and saw him eventually limp home in third place.

Despite tasting victory for the first time just 12 months later when he and K2 partner Andy Birkett won the 2014 Dusi showdown, Khwela still sees the K1 title as the ultimate achievement and is desperate to secure a first singles crown.

“I want to win a K1 Dusi so badly,” Khwela said. “I am so hungry to win next year’s Dusi.”

While the error will undoubtedly plague the young star in the build-up to next year’s clash, Khwela believes it was a freak incident and one that won’t shape his 2015 campaign.

“[Swimming at Pumphouse Weir] is not a big issue for me; I just made a mistake,” says Khwela almost two years later.

“I shot it at least 10 times without any problems when I was tripping before the 2013 race, so it was quite a shock when I fell out.

“I don’t know what went wrong on that day but I will trip it again before next year’s Dusi and it won’t be a problem for me.

“I was also very happy with how most of 2013 went and so I will take a lot of confidence out of the race two years ago for next year’s Dusi.”

Khwela and Birkett’s pairing saw the Shongweni based competitor stray from his traditional Dusi training regime, but with 2015 once again being a singles championship contest, Khwela is looking forward to returning to tried-and-tested ways.

“I don’t like travelling all over before the Dusi. I prefer training in Shongweni and staying at home where everything is familiar.

“It is important that you run very well with the boat but then you also need to make sure that you don’t lose too much [time] on the water.

“I am happy with where my running is at the moment but Andy [Birkett] and Lance [Kime] are very strong paddlers, so I’m working hard to try get my paddling as strong as possible.”

Precious little rainfall and subsequently low rivers have been a trademark of the KwaZulu-Natal river season’s early contests, but Khwela isn’t fazed by the lack of water in the system just yet.

“Usually we get some good rain in October and November. We didn’t this year but the rains are coming slowly,” he said.

“Hopefully we’ll get some good rain in January and then the rivers will fill up,” he said.

Khwela and the rest of the province’s canoeing fraternity will take to a portion of the Dusi route this weekend when they take on the Lettie Paddle 50 Miler Canoe Marathon on Saturday and Sunday.

Previously the race has represented a key Dusi form indicator but with the February staging of the Dusi, nowadays the 50 Miler represents another opportunity for paddlers to get some valuable miles into the arms and legs in the middle third of their build-up campaigns.

The 64th edition of the Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban from February 19 to February 21.

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