Birkett and Zondi team up

2013-02-22 00:00

WITH the dust having hardly settled after the thrilling showdown at The Unlimited Dusi, the two paddlers who suffered the biggest disappointments, Sbonelo Zondi and Any Birkett, have teamed up to challenge for the title in the non-stop version of the race.

The Unlimited Non-Stop Dusi, on March 8, covers most of the Dusi course in one day and was won last year by Birkett in a single kayak.

He became only the second man to do so in the event’s history.

The pair’s recent announcement has shaken the paddling fraternity of South Africa, especially their fellow elite competitors eyeing combinations to challenge for a 2014 Dusi title.

Birkett cagily admitted the combination was purely for the short term, but many elite river racers will have a very close eye on proceedings in the Non-Stop Dusi as offers and counter- offers whizz back and forth ahead of the 2014 Dusi doubles year.

“This is purely a Non-Stop combination and there are no strings attached to us paddling together in the future

“If I were to say that there was no chance of us paddling next year’s Dusi together I would be lying to you.

“I would say there is definitely a small chance we could do Dusi together, but for now this is just a Non-Stop combination,” explained Birkett.

Having won the Dusi three years in a row, twice with doubles partner Jason Graham and once single-handedly, Birkett had a disappointing campaign in 2013.

He finished fourth overall after rudder troubles and a rare yet costly swim at Tombi Rapid on day two left him with too much work to do on the third and final day.

The Non-Stop Dusi, however, provides Birkett with the perfect opportunity to right a couple of those wrongs and get back to winning ways in the Msunduzi and Mngeni River valleys, as it does too for Zondi, who saw his fairytale win ripped from his grasp just kilometers from the finish.

Despite having reigned victorious in the event last year on his own and having never sat in a boat with Zondi, Birkett is looking forward to giving the combination a go and is confident they will do well in the ultra-marathon event, particularly due to their similarities in approach to the sport.

“Paddling with Sbonelo is something I thought about briefly during this year’s Dusi, having seen just how strong he was, but it’s only something that has really come together in the past two days,” said Birkett.

“On Monday morning I was still focused on paddling Non-Stop in my K1. After mulling it over in my mind for a while on Monday afternoon I eventually changed my mind and decided I was going to do it with Sbonelo.”

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