New names ready to win the Dusi

2013-01-26 00:00

THERE’S a possible changing of the guard at the front of the Dusi Canoe Marathon as a generation of young, elite paddlers stand up to be counted.

For many years, observers and followers of the race have grown familiar with the dice for top spot between Dusi regulars such as Ant Stott, Len Jenkins, Thulani Mbanjwa and Hank McGregor. Now a new generation of paddlers is coming through, a bunch of highly talented under 23 paddlers who have served their time since being in the under 18 ranks.

Three-time winner of the Dusi, Andy Birkett is a prime example, stamping his authority on the race as a singles and doubles paddler. This is his last year in the u23 ranks and he is keen to keep his momentum going. He has proven he is undaunted by the big guns and a fourth win in the race could be considered a sure bet.

Another youngster worth following is Lance Kime (21), second in last year’s non-stop Unlimited Dusi and just out of the podium places in the three-day race. He hopes to get a top-three finish this year as he launches his assault on overall glory in the race.

Throw in the likes of Kime’s paddling partner from last year, Kwanda Mhlope, as well as Ben Biggs, Siseko Ntondini, Mmeli Cele and Brandon van der Walt and the possible top 10 in the men’s race have already been decided. These young paddlers are biding their time, learning the ins and outs of the route in preparation for their moment of triumph.

Although an ace in the South African slalom, Donavan Wewege could push the Dusi’s big guns all the way to the finish. He impressed at last weekend’s N3TC Drak Challenge, adapting to the ravaging Umzimkulu waters to finish fourth, ahead of Kime, Stott, Jacques Theron and Cam Schoeman. With Murray Starr, James Speed and Murray Haw, Wewege had paddling followers sitting up and taking note of the new generation bursting onto the scene as they finished their final year in the junior ranks last year. They have started this year with a clear message and are a potent force in the competitive U23 age group.

For this year’s race though, the names of the regular “Dusi Rats” should still dominate proceedings, but they will be looking over their shoulders.

The new, young generation, led by Birkett, have gathered their forces and it’s just a matter of time before some new names are written in the chapters of the race.

The Unlimited Dusi is from February 14 to 16.

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