A champ takes an early swim and an organiser takes a tumble

2009-01-15 00:00

Michael Mbanjwa set the pace, women’s leader Abbey Miedema took a swim and Dusi spokesman Ray de Vries took a tumble on an action-packed first day of the Dusi Canoe Marathon yesterday.

Mbanjwa, who is bidding to make Dusi history as the first black paddler to win in a single canoe (K1), was the first-day winner, with a four-minute lead over Ant Stott.

Scores of fans — men, women and children — carried the winner at the finish, singing triumphantly.

“This was my best first day ever,” said Mbanjwa, who has won the first day of the K1 race once before.

“Michael Mbanjwa is our everyday winner. When I grow up I want to be a top paddler just like him,” said Thulani Magubane (10).

Reigning champ Stott said Mbanjwa’s four-minute lead will make it tough for him to catch up, but he is not giving up just yet. “I am just hoping that I can catch up with him tomorrow,” he said.

It was “Dusi Queen” Miedema who caused an early alarm with a tumble at the Ernie Pierce weir.

“This tumble wasn’t my fault for a change,” said Miedema, adding that another paddler accidentally bumped into her, causing the champion to take an early swim.

“I fell off right on top of the weir at Ernie Pierce and it took me over two minutes to get back into the race … Fortunately my canoe didn’t sustain any damage,” she said.

But Miedema realised she had not emptied all the water out of her canoe. “I had to stop at Commercial Road to empty my canoe,” she explained.

This is where Dusi spokesman De Vries spotted what he thought was a distressed paddler.

“Abbey was waving her hands in the air as a gesture for help,” said De Vries, who didn’t hesitate to try and save her.

But the Good Samaritan took a fall just before reaching her and pulled an already strained back muscle. “It was so embarrassing, my back went stiff and I just lay there,” said De Vries.

He said having to be airlifted to MediClinic in front of the spectators, paddlers, Msunduzi Mayor Zanele Hlatshwayo and municipal manager Rob Haswell “added insult to the injury”.

“I wasn’t even a paddler and I sustained the first serious injury,” said De Vries. He was put on a drip, X-rayed and taken back to the race within 90 minutes.

Miedema did receive help and made a strong comeback, first overtaking rising star Robyn Kime at the Pine Tree section and then opening up a six-minute lead.

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