Khwela-Ntondini team eye podium finish at Dusi race

2018-02-09 11:01
The ambitious duo of Sbonelo Khwela (rear) and Siseko Ntondini will be back in the river for next week’s Dusi Canoe Marathon.

The ambitious duo of Sbonelo Khwela (rear) and Siseko Ntondini will be back in the river for next week’s Dusi Canoe Marathon. (Anthony Grote)

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It’s been three years since Sbonelo Khwela took top honours in the Dusi Canoe Marathon with multiple winner Andy Birkett in K2 doubles action.

Last year, the Shongweni resident came close to securing his second Dusi title and first K1, finishing second to Birkett, who will be hunting down a seventh title at this year’s edition of the race.

With less than a week to go before the three-day event for 2018, Khwela, who will form an exciting partnership with Siseko Ntondini, says he is ready “and raring” to tackle his 13th race.

He will be looking to capitalise on his good form to try add his second Dusi title to his list of honours.

“The preparations have gone really well. I think Siseko and I have done everything to prepare for the race and now we are just making sure we remain fit and ready for the three-day event,’’ Khwela said.

The ambitious duo confirmed their solid preparations with back-to-back successes at the recent Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon and Campbell’s to Dusi Bridge Marathon.

“To be honest, I can’t wait for the race. I’m really excited to pair with Siseko. We’re both happy with our preparations and how we’ve fared in the few seeding races we’ve done together,” he said.

“Our main goal is to finish in the top three, but obviously it would be the biggest achievement for us if we were to win the race.

“It’s going to be tough. I was looking at the other guys and it’s going to be gruelling.

“We just have to stick to our plan and keep our eyes on the ball.”

Khwela is aware of the threat that the pairing of Birkett and two-time winner Hank McGregor presents to their charge for top honours, but feels the Soweto-born paddler Ntondini will be his lucky charm, given their recent achievements.

“Obviously they are the team to beat. We’re all aware of that. But at the same time it’s a good challenge.

“I respect them because I know what they are capable of and I’m relishing the pressure and challenge that comes with it.”

However, he expressed concern about the prize money becoming “too little” over the years.

When he won the race with Birkett in 2014, the prize was R114 000, but it has since been reduced to R50 000.

Khwela feels it discourages athletes, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

He explained: “I just feel that the money has become too little now. We used to mostly look forward to the race because of the money as well, which really helps some of us who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“It feels like every year it’s going down.

“It’s not all of us who have sponsors, there’s very little you can do with R25 000 these days.

“I just wish they can revisit that decision to accommodate everyone, or we’ll end up playing just for the love of the sport and not look at it as a career to support our families,” he said.

The 67th edition of the event takes place from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban from next Thursday to Saturday.

Read more on:    dusi canoe marathon

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