Next Dusi winners?

2014-02-18 00:00

WHILE the performance of Dusi Canoe Marathon winners Sbonelo Zondi and Andrew Birkett will linger in the mind for years to come, there was another that will be hard to forget.

Teenagers Damon Stamp and Mthobisi Cele surprised many with their paddling as they managed to remain in the top 10 for the first two days of the race from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Durban’s Blue Lagoon.

But, on a dramatic final day, the two 17-year-olds were pipped out of the top 10 by David Wood and Kelvin Trautman, leaving the two boys devastated and in tears.

Expressing his disappointment, Damon said they had worked towards a top 10 finish and were upset that they did not achieve it. They did, however, win the juniors’ race, having been the first under-18 crew to cross the finish.

Next year, though, the two will be back for the K1 race, which will be their first Dusi as seniors.

Damon told The Witness that he would love to win the race one day.

“Everyone at this level wants to win it,” said the Maritzburg College boy, who regarded Lance Kime, Zondi and Birkett as the paddlers he looked up to the most.

“We try to follow their example and race as hard as we can,” he said.

Mthobisi, who came through the Computershare Change a Life Academy, although feeling a little disappointed, was happy they managed to finish in 11th place.

“I never thought we’d stay in the top 10 for two days and end up missing it by two minutes,” the Nhlanhla Yabebhuzi High School pupil said as he held back his tears.

Next year, Mthobisi has big plans, and aims for a top 10 finish in the K1 race.

“I’d also like to win it one day. For now, though, I’ll take a bit of a rest and focus on my books as I’m doing my matric this year. That’s my big focus right now.”

The two have built a strong friendship, and Damon said paddling together down the river from Pietermaritzburg to Durban was an amazing experience.

“The paddle was amazing, and to cross the finish and give him a hug after the race was amazing,” he said.

Damon’s father, who also regards Mthobisi as his son, was at the finish after the race at Blue Lagoon on Saturday consoling the boys.

“I think day one was a bit surreal. What it did was that it showed that both of these boys have a lot of potential,” said Stamp, who competed in 17 Dusis and sometimes partnered Glen Haw — the father of women’s third place finishers Tamika and Bianca.

“It’s the second year Damon’s doing it, and it’s a harsh lesson for them. There are a few juniors who get this close to the top 10. For them to pull off a result like that is phenomenal, and it’ll only make them work harder.

“They came so close, but no cigar,” he said.

According to Dusi Canoe Marathon chairperson Cameron McKenzie, the best performance by a junior in the Dusi was by former World Canoe Marathon world champion Cam Schoeman, who managed to finish in the top 10 in 2008.

Schoeman, who became the youngest man to win the world marathon championship in 2008, finished in third place with Czech Republic star Jakub Adam.

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