Birkett ends spell as ‘bridesmaid’

2014-11-10 00:00

ANDY Birkett ended a three-year spell as the bridesmaid by finally bagging the Ozzie Gladwin presented by Parklane SuperSpar title yesterday.

He out-duelled his Dusi Canoe Marathon winning partner Sbonelo Khwela, while Laura O’Donoghue raced away from a strong field to claim a dominant victory in the women’s race.

The men’s race was a fascinating showdown between Birkett (Eurosteel), Khwela (Eurosteel/Red Bull) and another former Dusi winner Thulani Mbanjwa (BuildIt). They were among a leading group of seven paddlers on the Albert Falls Dam before the event’s sole portage of about three kilometres, which Khwela used to take the lead over Mbanjwa. Khwela pushed hard in the run to get a gap to recover and to be ready for the flat water and for the river skills.

Khwela and Mbanjwa then worked together to try to drop Birkett, knowing how strong he is on the water. At one stage, the four-time Dusi champion was 50 seconds off the pace, but he managed to work his way back to the front-runners after seven kilometers of river racing. “When I caught them, I was pretty stuffed, so I slowed the pace down to recuperate,” said Birkett. The trio then engaged in a game of cat and mouse before Birkett managed to open a slight gap on Khwela and Mbanjwa when they fluffed their lines in the shallow rapids near the finish, to win by just over seven seconds. Mbanjwa claimed third, 36 seconds behind the winner.

While the river season is now under way, Birkett warned that one should not read much into the Ozzie Gladwin result ahead of the Dusi in February.

“This is a very different race to the Dusi,” he explained.

“It is not exactly a Dusi-style race because the portage here, although we find it hard at this stage of the season, is quite an easy portage compared to some of the portages on Dusi. “There is still a lot of work to do to prepare for those portages.”

Laura O’Donoghue was a convincing winner of the women’s race, more than five minutes up on second-placed Jenna Ward.

“I’m very chuffed. It’s a confidence booster for the start of the season,” she said. “There were three of us in a group and on the run I managed to break away and put in front. I was waiting for the girls to catch me the whole way, so I had to work really hard and I was really tired at the end.”

Ward said the portage was a bit intimidating, but once that was out of the way she could maintain her position on the water. Epworth Under 16 ace Cana Peek grabbed the last spot on the women’s podium, while Abby Adie had a rare bad day, finishing way back in fifth overall.

The event saw a record entry for the Guppies race, whicg bodes well for the future of canoeing.

Birkett ends spell as ‘bridesmaid’

Men’s paddler finally bags first place in Ozzie Gladwin race

After three successive second-place finishes, Andy Birkett won the Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon presented by Parklane SuperSpar.

PHOTO: Gameplan Media

Sbonelo Khwela shoots the Albert Falls Weir during the Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon presented by Parklane SuperSpar.

PHOTO: Gameplan Media

Summary of results


1. Andy Birkett 2:01:47.09

2. Sbonelo Khwela 2:01:54.45

3. Thulani Mbanjwa 2:02:23.50


1. Laura O’Donoghue 2:17:26.63

2. Jenna Ward 2:22:42.81

3.Cana Peek 2:25:18.21


1. Mhlonishwa Hlongwane 2:05:42.72

2. Banesti Nkhoesa 2:07:31.29

3. Kwanda Mhlope 2:08:53.75


1. Mthobisi Cele 2:12:09.67 (14th overall)

2. Alan Houston 2:12:43.83 (17th)

3. Bongani Ntinga 2:14:13.75 (20th).

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