Dusi contenders ready to lead the pack on this year’s fuller rivers

2018-02-15 10:59
Top Dusi Canoe Marathon contenders (from left) Andy Birkett, Hank McGregor; Jordan and Cana Peek say they are ready and rearing to go ahead of the start on Thursday.

Top Dusi Canoe Marathon contenders (from left) Andy Birkett, Hank McGregor; Jordan and Cana Peek say they are ready and rearing to go ahead of the start on Thursday. (Ian Carbutt)

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Some 1 000 canoeists will duel it out over three days and 120 km of river after the cannon boomed at the start of the 2018 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon early on Thursday morning.

The biggest canoeing event on the continent started from the Dusi bridge in Camps Drift at 6 am, and carries on to Saturday, finishing at Durban’s Blue Lagoon.

The Accuweather website predicts a partly cloudy morning in Pietermaritzburg, with showers expected in the afternoon.

Pre-race favourite duo Andy Birkett and world champion Hank McGregor said they were excited to take on the river. Speaking ahead of the start, McGregor said: “I’m looking forward to the first stage of the 2018 FNB Dusi and I’m excited because I’m doing it with a very strong partner. He’s the new king of the Dusi.

“I’m just looking to go down on a tour with him. All the pressure is on him because he’ll be in the front. I’m just there to go along for the ride, and put some power in and hopefully enjoy the day.”

He added: “Last year KwaZulu-Natal suffered a really bad drought, and that affected the paddlers, with the low water. But this year it looks like there’s some water and that should be fun. We are looking forward to a great day on the river.”

His partner, Birkett, who is chasing his eighth Dusi title, echoed McGregor’s sentiments: “Hank has promised to carry the whole boat. It should be fun for me. It’s a lot of running on the first day, but I’m excited. With his pedigree from world marathon champs, it’s going to be a great three days. It will be a test of endurance and stamina. When you train for the Dusi, you try and balance both your running and paddling, to get both strong. I think we’re going to have to see for ourselves today where we are lying,’’ he said.

In the women’s contest, the Bridgitte Hartley and Christie McKenzie duo are likely to be a big threat to local siblings Jordan and Cana Peek, with both teams targeting their maiden Dusi K2 titles. Speaking ahead of their maiden K2 race together, the Peek sisters, who reside in Scottsville, were feeling “calm and collected” and say they expect an exciting and challenging journey.

“I’m very excited. We have been praying for this day for the last three months,” said 22-year-old Jordan.

Her younger sister, Cana (20), promised to put up a formidable fight against their competitors.

“I’m also calm, too calm in fact, which is concerning because I’m racing a three-day event. But, people can expect a smile along the way.

“We’re just going to go out there and have a good time. There is a little bit of pressure, but it’s good pressure,” she said.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  dusi canoe marathon

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