Khwela’s Dusi preparations get ‘messy’

2016-01-20 06:00
                                          PHOTO: anthony grote/gameplan media Dusi ace Sbonelo Khwela’s plans for the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon are up in the air after Nhlanhla Cele suffered a dislocated shoulder in the Euro Steel Highveld Croc on the weekend.

PHOTO: anthony grote/gameplan media Dusi ace Sbonelo Khwela’s plans for the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon are up in the air after Nhlanhla Cele suffered a dislocated shoulder in the Euro Steel Highveld Croc on the weekend.

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DEFENDING K2 champion Sbonelo Khwela has not had much luck in his preparations for the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon.

His original partner Banetse Nkhoesa was stabbed in December, leading to Khwela partnering Nhlanhla Cele this past weekend in the Euro Steel Highveld Croc.

Lady Luck, though, again struck down his partner.

With only five kilometres left in the race, Khwela and Cele were two minutes adrift of Andy Birkett and Lance Kime, and had passed the powerhouse crew of Hank McGregor and Jasper Mocké on a portage.

But then, in a rapid, Cele tried to brake and his shoulder popped out. He tried to put it back in, but the RMB Change a Life duo’s challenge was over. Two years ago, Cele suffered a similar injury.

“It’s a little bit worse than he had in the past,” RMB Change a Life mentor Martin Dreyer said.

“We’ve got limited options so close to Dusi, with all the big guys having partners. It’s not like we have a solution for this,” he added.

Khwela, third in last year’s K1 race, and Nkhoesa, seventh overall, would have been in with a shot at victory, and the Khwela-Cele combination was an interesting one, with the relatively unknown Cele having proved his mettle by winning the Non-Stop Dusi with Thulani Mbanjwa last year.

Now matters are far less clear. “It’s a bit messy,” Dreyer said.

There were some options still open to Khwela, he added, having briefly discussed them just minutes before with his protégé.

One possibility he raised was of Khwela teaming up with Simon van Gysen, who had won silver as a junior at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships some years ago.

He had also finished fifth in the Dusi with Craig Turton, who was another man Dreyer mentioned.

“I suppose I am an option,” he laughed, tongue in cheek. “I wouldn’t do that to Sbonelo,” the seven-time Dusi champ added.

Khwela, too, was apparently in good spirits. “Maybe there is something I need to do for my ancestors. Maybe they are angry,” he said with a laugh.

Considering who he might team up with for the Dusi, Khwela continued: “The problem is if they were not training for Dusi, it would be hard for someone to now combine with me and do Dusi together. It is too late.”

A slightly strange-looking third option exists and that is teaming up with his original partner Bantese Nkhoesa, who was back in action in the Euro Steel Highveld Croc. His race didn’t go too well, however, and he has now committed to Mthobisi Cele as his partner.

“I am going to let God decide. I am still confused,” Khwela said.

Or maybe a fourth possibility exists with Cele wanting to paddle in the N3TC Drak Challenge this coming weekend, despite being prescribed three weeks’ rest by a doctor.

Dreyer commented: “I really feel for Sbonelo because Dusi is his life. He has built his career around Dusi and he puts everything into it.

“It was very brave of Sbonelo to not paddle with Andy Birkett. He had the invitation. He previously won it with Andy and the title was theirs for the taking. It was very brave of him to go with a friend and to say, ‘I am going to paddle Dusi with my best mate, Banetse’. I take my hat off to him for having the courage to do that.

“They were on course, training like Trojans, putting in the hard yards and they were both highly motivated.

“With Nhlanhla, they still had a chance of doing well and getting onto the podium with a relatively unknown Change a Life paddler.

“There has been no fault on Sbonelo’s side. He has just had two very unfortunate incidents.”

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