Dusi manager hails ‘awesome racing’

2013-02-15 00:00

EVERY year, Merchiston Preparatory School’s grade seven class makes its way to The Witness weir to watch The Unlimited Dusi canoeists soon after they set off from Camps Drift.

But this year, the grass on the river banks is too tall and they couldn’t go.

Sala Schutte, the school’s head of marketing, told The Witness they had planned to take 90 pupils to the weir.

“Every year we allow the grade sevens to go as a privilege. But the grass was just too long. Our staff did cut some of the grass along the way, but they couldn’t cut it the whole way.

“There was no other way we could walk through. We would otherwise have got into a car and driven all the way down Commercial Road and we couldn’t do that.

Asked why the school didn’t call the municipality in the weeks leading up to the Dusi, Schutte said: “I would have assumed that they would have cut it since it’s the Dusi.”

Municipal manager Mxolisi Nkosi said the municipality was not aware that any grass had been left uncut.

He said municipal workers had walked along the route to ensure that all was in order.

“I know that we were called and we had to cut grass last week,” he said. “If someone had brought it to our attention, we would have attended to it. If indeed there was grass that was left uncut, then that is unfortunate. I was not aware of it,” Nkosi said.

Race general manager Brett Austen-Smith said he hadn’t received any feedback, but was aware of “a few maintenance issues” leading up to the marathon.

One of them, he said, was that the municipality had been cleaning up following the heavy storm that struck the city.

Austen-Smith said he was very happy with how day one had gone.

“We’ve had some awesome racing. Both the male and female winners broke records with their finishes.

“Robyn Kime beat off the ladies and Sibonelo Zondi flew past triple defending champ Andy Birkett and the rest of the men’s field.”

The organisers were “very happy” with the crowds on the first day,” said Austen-Smith. “We’ve had no major incidents. We’ve had just a few mild dehydrations.

“One paddler recorded 53°C on his watch at one stage while paddling through the valley. He was confident that today would be an even better day, especially with the rain.

“It will be very good for the paddlers,”

At Dusi Bridge, the finish line for the first stage, Sihle and Nhlakanipho Makhanya were there to cheer on their brother, Nqobile.

“It looks like a good sport to take part in, so we’re thinking of taking part next year,” said Sihle.

Nhlakanipho said they had an entertaining day and were looking forward to the next two days.

Nqobile, who finished the first day in the top 30, said he would try and keep that place until the finish.

“Next year, as I have been working hard, I’m expecting a top 10 finish, and then I’ll go from there,” said the Mkhambathini local.

Also at the finish line were Arthur Baker (73), his wife Lileen (66) and their granddaughter Rylee (5). They were there to support their son Sheldon, who was competing in his seventh consecutive Dusi.

“But everywhere we’ve been to today, we’ve missed him.”

Baker said he had been in the province to support his wife, who swam in her 24th Midmar Mile last week and stayed for the Dusi. His son’s wife, Martine, is also a keen sportswoman who has completed the Comrades Marathon a number of times.

Mbongiseni Hlongwa, also from Mkhambathini, said that although they were there to support Zondi, who was the first canoeist home on day one, they had thought Michael Mbanjwa would finish first. Mbanjwa finished fourth.

“We did not expect Sibonelo to be first. He broke the record today — by 39 seconds — so we believe he will be first come the final day.”

Hlongwa said he hoped Zondi’s and Mbanjwa’s performances would inspire other youngsters in the area to give canoeing a chance.

The second stage ends at Msinsi Resort on Nagle Dam today and the last stage at Blue Lagoon tomorrow.

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