Lasting memory from Dusi 2009 will be camaraderie

2009-01-18 00:00

LONG after the finer details of the 2009 Hansa Powerade Dusi Canoe Marathon become hazy, the one abiding memory from this year’s race will be the camaraderie amongst the competitors at the end of each day.

Ant Stott and Abbey Miedema thoroughly deserved their titles, with imaginative strategies and patience in what has been described as one of the toughest Dusi Marathon’s yet.

Michael Mbanjwa, as expected, fought gallantly to the last, and will take his harsh experiences on the second day as a steep learning curve. He was again greeted with songs and hoisted high by his fans at the finish. A K1 title surely beckons in the future, but for now he can only marvel at Stott’s mastery on the final two days.

Stott trusted his strengths, seized his moment and drove the advantage home when he had the chance. Miedema, likewise, had trouble on the first day, but bounced back emphatically in this, her last race as a South African-based paddler. But she will be back.

“It was a very physical day, but after my disaster on the first day I am very happy to be sitting here as champion again,” Miedema said.

Ever wary of her surroundings, Miedema expressed concern for the river itself, saying the hyacinth was not only a hazard for paddlers, but was throttling the natural life within the ecosystem.

For Stott, his fourth Dusi title was “an awesome feeling” and he singled out his massive strides on day two as the key to his success.

“I was a bit worried being over four minutes behind ‘Banji’, but I had an amazing second day. When I saw him struggling at Hippo, I knew that was my chance and I did my best to get as far ahead as possible and really dishearten him.”

His ploy worked, and Mbanjwa admitted as much in the post-race conference.

“Seeing Ant shoot Hippo and take the lead really hit me hard. In fact, it broke me because I knew it would be too hard to catch him again,” the K2 champion said.

He still put in a full shift on Saturday, however, and sliced off more than five minutes from Stott’s lead at the notorious Burma Road, but he simply had too much to do.

Sprint specialist Shaun Rubenstein came in third, and he was again full of praise for his two rivals.

“They are both great sportsmen, and true champions and it was a real pleasure to race with them.”

Rubenstein also revealed how he had almost pulled out of the race, after a severe bout of flu.

“I knew on Thursday that I was still not 100%, but decided to just go out there and enjoy what will be my last Dusi until after the 2012 Olympics,” he said.

Rubenstein will now channel his energy towards medal success in London, and Stott for one is backing him to do just that.

“He is undoubtedly the best paddler in the country, and I really hope he does the business in London,” the World Canoe Marathon champion said.

The women’s race had a late twist, with Abie Adie pipping Robyn Kime to second place.

“Robyn and quite a few others had trouble in the hyacinth, but luckily I managed to scrape my way through ahead of her,” a pleased Adie said.

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