In-form Jenkins is race favourite

2012-11-07 00:00

PADDLING stars will converge on Albert Falls Dam this weekend for The Unlimited Ozzie Gladwin after a weekend in which KZN aces Len Jenkins, Nhlanhla Cele and Abby Adie were dominant at the BSI Steel Wessa Vaal River Canoe Marathon and the Triple Challenge respectively.

Jenkins, pre-race favourite to take this weekend’s title, having done so nine times in the past 13 encounters, continued his incredible run of form as he and K2 partner Brandon van der Walt powered to a narrow victory at the 2012 BSI Steel Wessa Vaal River Canoe Marathon in Gauteng.

Cele (Multisport — Individual) and Adie (Multisport — Team of two) claimed morale boosting victories in their respective Triple Challenge categories.

“We’ve only paddled together twice before, so we’re a really new combination, but we paddle well together,” said Jenkins after his victory on the Vaal River with his newly formed partnership with Van der Walt.

The young U23 star also paid tribute to his partner after crossing the finish line. “Stoked with our win at the Vaal marathon. Big power coming from @Len_Jenkins,” he tweeted after the race.

The Natal Canoe Club duo of Ant Stott and Cam Schoeman, who will miss this weekend’s Ozzie Gladwin due to their involvement in the Ardèche Marathon in France, finished second, just two seconds behind the victors, while The Unlimited Czech crew of Adam Jakob and Michael Odvarko finished third.

“It was a really tough race. We had a really good battle with Len and Brandon on the water,” said Schoeman.

“We broke away together and I guess we were the two dominant boats. We had a perfect race, they just had a better one.”

Jen Theron continued her fairytale year on the river as she and Hilary Pitchford (Team Matelec) powered to victory in the women’s race and finished in 16th place overall.

“The race went really, really well. There wasn’t much competition for the girls, so we just decided we needed to race the boys instead,” Pitchford said.

“Even though Jen hadn’t paddled since the Sasol Lowveld Croc [in late September] she was really strong and it was great to have her in the boat,” she added.

Despite not racing for the overall spoils, triple Dusi champion Andy Birkett (Team Best 4 Kayak Centre) showed good early season signs as well when he teamed up with London Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley. The pair raced to a commanding mixed doubles victory, finishing an impressive sixth overall, just two minutes behind the overall winners.

After finishing the first day fourth in a five-boat lead bunch, valley hero Thulani Mbanjwa and 2011 The Unlimited Dusi partner Sibonelo Zondi lost out to the experienced Gauteng pairing of Jacques Theron and Piers Cruickshanks on day two and had to settle for a disappointing fifth overall.

Kwanda Mhlope, regarded by many as a Dusi dark horse for 2013, together with Tom Ngcobo, were the first of a large Change A Life academy squad at the event across the line. Lucas Mthalane, Richard Cele and John Ngcobo also got some valuable mileage under their belts ahead of next year’s The Unlimited Dusi Canoe Marathon.

All the action from the 2012 The Unlimited Ozzie Gladwin gets under way at 9 am on Sunday and is preceded by the Guppy Race, for ages 4-12 years old, at 8 am.

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