Leading canoeist upbeat

2009-01-15 00:00

The first day of the 2009 Hansa Powerade Dusi marathon got off to a dramatic start, with women’s favourite Abbey Miedema taking a tumble on Ernie Pearce Weir and stopping at Witness Weir to empty her boat.

The five-time champion regained her composure, however, and had built up a substantial lead of almost seven minutes on young Pietermaritzburg star Robyn Kime.

“It wasn’t the best start to the day, and was frustrating because for once it wasn’t my mistake, but these things happen,” Miedema said at the end of the first day.

“I was just glad the boat was fine, and I got back on track after that.”

Miedema expects another tough stage today, with lower water levels placing a big emphasis on technical skill.

“I would like a clean day, with no swims, and I think I will enjoy the longer, more technical day.”

In the men’s race, Valley hero Michael Mbanjwa had a “best-ever first day”

Only a bout of cramp on Cabbage Tree prevented him from opening up a lead even bigger than his 4 minutes, 22 seconds over defending K1 champion Ant Stott.

“I had a good start, and just waited for the first portage where I knew the ground would suit my running style,” Mbanjwa said.

“Usually I make a mistake or take a swim early on, but this was my best-ever first day,” said an upbeat Mbanjwa.

He overtook both Stott and third-placed Shaun Rubenstein before Campbells, but a lack of liquid almost cost him dearly.

“I didn’t get enough liquid from my guys before Campbells and I really struggled to maintain speed from there,” he revealed.

The gap at Mission Rapid was just over four minutes and Stott did very well to prevent it from stretching further.

Stott had cramp troubles himself, and said this had prevented him from narrowing the gap even further.

“Michael really opened up on the portages and I will need to catch him as quickly as possible [today] or else I will have no chance,” Stott said.

“Ideally I would like to catch him before the dam (Inanda) because if I don’t open up at least two minutes on him in the water, he will pull away at Burma Road.”

With the low water, Stott admits that he will have to portage at Burma, which will play into Mbanjwa’s hands.

“It will get very hot, and I am a bit lighter than him, so hopefully that works to my advantage,” Stott added.

“[Today] will be very tough and any mistakes from either of us will be costly.”

In the junior section, one of Martin Dreyer’s 12 hopefuls, Kwanda Hlophe, led the way, while Tamika Haw took first day honours in the girls’ section.

Dreyer’s dream of 10 Robert Lembethi Canoeing Club members finishing in the top 50 was well on track, with 11 of them among the first 32 paddlers home.

“It’s been a great first day, with a lot of to-ing and fro-ing, but it was well worth it,” an ecstatic Dreyer said.

With temperatures expected to soar deep in the valley today, the second stage could go a long way to deciding the fate of this year’s Dusi titles.

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