Best Dusi yet for Change a Life Academy

2018-03-06 06:00
PHOTO: SuppliedThe promising Change a Life pair of Mthobisi Cele and Mpilo Zondi paddled to a spectacular seventh overall and first in the U23 event, at the 2018 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon recently.

PHOTO: SuppliedThe promising Change a Life pair of Mthobisi Cele and Mpilo Zondi paddled to a spectacular seventh overall and first in the U23 event, at the 2018 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon recently.

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THE Martin Dreyer Change a Life Academy raised the bar in the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon last weekend, as his charges produced their best yet results in the iconic three-day race.

The Change a Life squad were always going to be a formidable outfit at this year’s Dusi, with a number of strong paddlers teaming up, as well as a few members teaming up with paddlers outside the squad for the race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.

With 22 paddlers from the academy taking part, there was always the chance that they could perform well, but academy founder Dreyer was particularly impressed with the results achieved.

“This year’s Dusi was the best ever for us, results wise,” an ecstatic Dreyer said. “Just looking from the top, Sbonelo Khwela, who finished third, was with the academy for seven years, so to see him perform so well was a proud moment.

“Then Banetse Nkhoesa, who paddled with Ant Stott, the same person I won the Dusi with in 2004, finished fourth overall, another fantastic achievement!

“The current Change a Life academy paddlers then occupied positions seven to 11, as well as 14th, 15th, 16th, 19th and 20th overall, and finished first to third in the U23 age group,” added Dreyer.

Prior to the start of the 2018 FNB Dusi, the Change a Life pair that was touted to perform well were the U23 crew of Mthobisi Cele and Mpilo Zondi.

The duo absorbed the pressure of being age-group favourites and came out on top, ahead of fellow CAL stars Nqobile Makhanya and Siyanda Gwamanda in second and Mvelo Ngidi and Thabani Msiya in third in the U23.

“To have dominated the U23 category is really encouraging for the academy’s future, and to see Mvelo do so well in his first year in the U23 age group bodes well for the next few years.

“Nqobile and Siyanda, Msawenkosi, Richard and Nhlanhla all achieved their first top-10 finish at the Dusi and I can see the guys maturing into strong paddlers.

“Unfortunately, one team that was so close and just missed out on the top 10, was that of Mvelo and Thabani in 11th, but they are the youngest and so have many years ahead of them,” Dreyer said.

The large team assembled by Dreyer for the race through the Valley of a Thousand Hills was chomping at the bit to do well in front of their families and friends. And with four gold medals to count for their efforts, the team can be very proud.

“I am incredibly happy for Richard and Nhlanhla Cele because Richard has moved up to Johannesburg to become a coach for the Victoria Lake Canoe Club and training together has been a challenge, so for them to end in the top 10 was a really good achievement.

“Also, the efforts of Mmeli Cele and Maswenkosi Mtolo must be commended. Mmeli was very sick and vomiting on day one but they stuck to their guns and pushed hard to finish 10th overall,” a proud Dreyer said.

This year’s Dusi threw up a scenario that no-one had seen before, with the current drought ensuring that day three’s conditions would be testing once again.

For the first time, this year’s race meant that paddlers paddled on a low seven cumec water release in the third stage, with it normally running at 20 to 25 cumecs, or as with last year, no water.

Dreyer went into the third day slightly concerned about how his Change a Life team would cope.

“Day three was going to be technical on that low water and the guys showed great skills in negotiating the tricky rapids and running strongly on the Burma Road portage.

“Surprisingly many of them solidified or improved on their positions on the final day,” Dreyer said.

Dreyer has always been adamant that his Change a Life Academy is no more than a talent identification structure whereby that talent gets support to be the best they can.

But recently, Euro Steel has got on board with supporting the top-end athletes with a monthly stipend.

“It’s great for the top guys to get monetary support from Euro Steel in the months leading up to the Dusi where they receive a monthly stipend which is basically a reward for training hard.

“I am over the moon with the Change a Life Dusi performances.

“Now it’s time to get some rest, reload and do it all over again next year.

“I can’t wait!” said Dreyer.
— Supplied.


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