Zondi joins McGregor

2014-02-27 00:00

THIS year’s Dusi champion Sbonelo Zondi dropped a last-minute bombshell in the flurry of 11th hour entries for tomorrow’s Non-Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon by changing his K1 plans to a K2 entry with none other than canoe marathon world champion Hank McGregor.

Zondi, who raced to Dusi victory with fellow EuroSteel star Andy Birkett earlier this month, had initially hoped to continue his journey with Birkett in this year’s Non-Stop Dusi and bid for a rare Dusi/Non-Stop Dusi double.

He was forced to change his plans though when Birkett decided not to take part in this year’s race, leaving Zondi partnerless and preparing to go the distance alone.

A last-minute change of heart though saw Zondi contact Kayak Centre/Team Jeep’s McGregor and a positive response on Tuesday got the ball rolling for the curious combination.

“In the beginning, my plan wasn’t to do Non-Stop Dusi on my own. I wanted to paddle with Andy Birkett again but when he told me he wasn’t going to race Non-Stop then I decided to do it in my K1. Even though I said I was okay doing it alone, I wasn’t all that confident because it’s a very long way,” explained Zondi.

“I woke up during the night on Monday and something just told me that I was making a mistake and that I needed to find a partner for Non-Stop. I sent Hank [McGregor] a message and he replied mid-morning on Tuesday saying he was happy to paddle with me.

“I’m really happy to have someone in the boat with me to talk to and to keep me motivated throughout the race.”

While both are pedigree performers in their own right, the pair form an unusual combination as they are two very different athletes.

“Hank is obviously a very good paddler and I’m a good runner,” explained Zondi. “I’m not sure how we’ll combine but Hank is a great athlete and he knows what to do. I’m sure he won’t try to kill me with the paddling and I will try not to push him too hard on the runs.”

Albeit an unusual combination, Zondi is hopeful the pair will still be successful, despite the presence of some other talented crews.

“From my side our goal is to get onto the podium. A win would be a bonus because we have come together so late and won’t have much time to get in the boat together and see how we combine,” he said.

“Lance [Kime] and Bungee [Thulani Mbanjwa] will be extremely strong and I think they have a point to prove after their bad luck during Dusi.”

With limited time before racing gets under way at 5.30 am tomorrow, Zondi and McGregor are unlikely to have much chance to paddle together and test how they go in a boat.

Their effort will start with Zondi seeking a fourth Non-Stop victory while McGregor will be looking to add to his legacy of being the first person ever to win the event, open to K1s and K2s alike, on his own.

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