Young pups rule memorable Dusi

2011-02-21 00:00

ROBYN Kime and Andrew Birkett secured contrasting yet memorable Unlimited Dusi Canoe marathon titles on Saturday morning, as the new generation in this annual epic came to the fore.

Remarkably, they are both still young enough to have completed the double, winning the open and U21 sections respectively.

While Kime’s win was ultimately comfortable [over 21 minutes ahead of Abby Adie], she still had to overcome an early setback after taking a tumble at Ernie Pearce Weir on the first morning.

“It was all mine to throw away so I just tried to play it safe today,” an exhausted but ecstatic Kime said.

“I went over Burma and I seriously think it must be banned next year,” she laughed.

Of course, the race that will go down in Dusi history was the incredible tussle between Birkett and Ant Stott for the men’s title.

They had finished in unison at the end of the gruelling second day, but Stott built up an early lead on the dam.

“There was a speed boat just ahead of us, and Ant caught its wave and there was no way I could catch him there,” Birkett explained.

Stott had a lead of 45 seconds by the time he reached Tops Needle, and this grew to two minutes when he reached the infamous Burma Road portage.

But the 20-year-old Birkett refused to give up the ghost, and he hunted Stott down, landing his most significant body blow on Burma Road.

“I have run some pretty fast times up Burma during training with Jason [Graham, co-winner with Birkett last year], and [Saturday’s] effort was a little off my personal best,” he explained.

He charged past Stott, and had opened up a lead of about 45 seconds — only for Stott to catch him up again on the river.

For the second time in as many days, there was an agreed upon lull in activity, with it impossible for either paddler to gain an advantage.

“We were just chilling, chatting away to each other,” Birkett said, as if recalling a Sunday splash-about with friends.

Having negotiated a treacherous patch of hyacinth near the Papwa Sewgolum golf course together, the niceties of the previous hour were put aside for one, last mad dash.

“Ant turned to me and said that, for the next 30 minutes, we were enemies until we crossed that line,” Birkett revealed.

The cards were stacked in favour of the more experienced Stott, a world champion in marathon paddling.

But, not for the first time during this three-day epic, Birkett found another gear.

He stayed with Stott until they reached the home straight. And then came the charge.

It was the greatest of finishes, and Stott wasn’t out of it until the last, few metres.

“I don’t know where that came from,” Birkett exclaimed after the race.

“I have never out-sprinted Ant before. Never.”

Stott, ever gracious, commended Birkett on a performance that belied his youthful years.

Birkett, who stunned many last year by winning the doubles title with Jason Graham, said the singles title felt even better.

“To win the Dusi is special, but to do it in K1 is just unbelievable.

“There is no one on the boat to guide you or encourage you when you are down. You are on your own, which is why I am so proud of this win,” he grinned.

Elsewhere, Michael Mbanjwa came back strongly to cement third-place, while Birkett’s competition over the next decade or so identified itself, as the constantly improving Eric Zondi and the determined Lance Kime finished in fourth and sixth respectively.

The 2011 edition of the Unlimited Dusi showed that the sport is in fine fettle.

Not only was there a massive increase in entries, there was also a shift up in the quality of the field.

And to top it all off, there was also a fairytale finish to cherish.

It had been dubbed the “Battle of the Big Five”, but little Birkett showed that size isn’t always everything.

OVERALL POSITIONS AND TIMES

Men

1.Andrew Birkett (U21) 8:06.08

2.Ant Stott 8:06.09

3.Michael Mbanjwa 8:15.22

4.Eric Zondi 8:22.22

5.Hank McGregor 8:26.23

Women

1.Robyn Kime (U21) 9:37.33

2.Abby Adie 9:58.14

3.Hilary Pitchford 10:19.37

4.Alex Adie 10:36.20

5.Donna Winter 10:46.54

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