Valley locals came to support Mbanjwa but happy Zondi won

2014-02-14 00:00

THE Valley came out in full force to support its favourite son Michael Mbanjwa on the first day of the Dusi Canoe Marathon yesterday morning.

However, after an unfortunate incident early on near The Witness Weir, Mbanjwa, along with his partner Lance Kime, dropped back in the field and could only manage to finish in 17th place on the day.

But the folk in the Valley were still given a treat when their other favourite, Sibonelo Zondi, crossed in first place with Andy Birkett, and they could go all the way if they can keep their boat intact.

“I’m happy that Zondi won,” Fekhaya Ndulu told The Witness at Dusi Bridge, the finish line for the first day of paddling yesterday. “But I am here to support my neighbour Michael Mbanjwa. But I am happy seeing someone from the area win on the first day.”

Ndulu admitted he didn’t understand much about canoeing, but added that seeing people from the area doing well was encouraging.

“I did not see Zondi cross the line in first place and I’m not happy about that. I would have loved to have been here early enough to see him finish first,” he said as he stood under an umbrella in the searing KwaZulu-Natal heat.

Another local who was in the race was Mlandeni Radebe. Paddling with his partner Mxolisi Ntuli in his fifth Dusi, he managed to finish in 38th, a big improvement on his 58th place last year. “I came through the development programme for paddlers in the Valley of a Thousand Hills, and I’m hoping to make it into the top 20 next year,” a tired-sounding and looking Radebe said after his paddle. He also expressed his joy for Zondi and Birkett’s victory.

“I’m happy for him. He too is from the Valley, but he came through the development at Shongweni,” said the Nqobizo Makhanya and Siboniso Shezi trained paddler.

The organisers were also happy with how the day’s events unfolded.

“The racing has been fantastic, and the ladies are also coming along nicely,” said Dusi general manager Brett Austen-Smith.

He said there were no major incidents at the end of the first day, just a “few cuts and bruises”.

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