Young paddlers battle for glory in Ozzie Gladwin race

2014-11-08 00:00

A NEW generation of talented juniors will do battle over the 26 km of the Ozzie Gladwin tomorrow, eager for glory, prize money and preferential seeding for the 2015 Dusi Canoe Marathon.

Leading the charge is new junior K2 World Champion Louis Hattingh.

While he will be right in the mix for the junior line honours at the Gladwin, he will be one of the top schoolboys who will move up to the U23 ranks at the start of the new calendar year. This means he will be “barking with the big dogs” for next year’s Dusi.

Hattingh can expect a tough day’s racing from the current U18 crop of paddlers with the likes of 2014 U18 K2 Dusi Canoe Marathon champion Mthobisi Cele, slalom specialist Brandon Orpwood and up-and-coming stars such as Michaelhouse’s U16 Dusi K1 champ Alan Houston on the water.

With matric examinations under way, there are a few of the outgoing stock of junior paddlers who might not be on the start line tomorrow. However, this has not diminished the intensity of the contest for junior laurels when the racing starts in earnest on Albert Falls Dam.

Another ominous threat will be the Change a Life Academy juniors, who have eyed out the 2014 Ozzie Gladwin as a race in which they can excel.

Martin Dreyer believes that it will be a good test for his juniors.

“We have more focus on the juniors at Change a Life going into the 2015 Dusi and so we’re hoping for a good performance from all our youngsters,” he said.

“The stretch of river for Ozzie isn’t all that technical and is quite forgiving so I’m expecting all of the top marathoners from the Maritzburg schools to be there. It will be tough.”

Cele, who moves into the U23 ranks next year, narrowly missed out on a spot in the top 10 at the Dusi this year with partner Damon Stamp as they ended eleventh overall and he leads a strong Change a Life Academy force at this year’s Ozzie Gladwin.

The 2013 K2 edition of the Ozzie Gladwin saw Stamp and Cele win the U18 title and finish in ninth overall. It was the impressive duo of Mpilo Zondi and Nkosi Mabaso who took the honours in the U16 category. Zondi and Mabaso are two of the Change a Life paddlers Dreyer has singled out as strong contenders heading into the Ozzie Gladwin and a pair of positive results for them will stand them in good stead heading into the rest of the KwaZulu-Natal river season.

With a long and competitive Dusi season ahead it is going to be important for many of these young paddlers to get themselves favourable seeding spots ahead of the showpiece event in February next year.

The 2014 Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon is from Albert Falls Dam to Thornvale Farm.

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