HAVING forged a formidable combination with Abby Solms in recent months, Jenna Ward’s FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon partner Vanda Kiszli, the Hungarian U23 Marathon World Champion, has arrived in the country and has hit the ground running as they prepare for the 18-20 February showdown.
The Ward and Solms combination was in fine form with wins in all of the major FNB Dusi seeding races, including the Umpetha Challenge, Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon, presented by Parklane Superspar, and the StaminGro 50 Miler.
“Abby and my results have come as quite a shock to me to be honest,” Ward said.
“I thought we would do well in the women’s field, but I didn’t expect to do as well in the men’s race,” she added after she and Solms finished the 50 Miler in 14th place in the overall field.
With the arrival of Ward’s Hungarian partner its going to be an interesting month-and-a-half for the pair as they build up for the iconic three-day journey with Ward having to get Kiszli up to speed on river marathon racing.
“Vanda arrived on 4 January so it does give us quite a bit of time in the boat, and hopefully enough time to get her up to speed with river racing. I don’t think she has ever done a river race before.
“I know she is an incredibly strong paddler so I don’t think we will have any problems on the water, but we will have to do quite a bit of running in our preparations.”
Following an initial Skype call to get acquainted, Kiszli's arrival has prompted her to learn English quickly and Ward has been impressed by the speed with which she is learning.
With the women’s race expected to be a closely fought race Ward has earmarked a few crews she believes she and Kiszli are going to have to watch out for over the three days.
“Abby [Solms] and Anna [Kožíšková] are definite favourites going into the race, something I don’t think anyone can argue with, but it is the Dusi and anything can happen so we will definitely try and put as much pressure on them.
“Cana [Peek] and Kyeta [Purchase] are another really strong crew, even though they will also be racing in the junior category I think they will be tough to beat,” said Ward.
Despite the excitement of a tight ladies race Ward feels there is more at stake for them than just racing the other ladies.
“The Dusi is always two races in one. Racing in the ladies race, but also trying to race against the men and do as well as you can against them.
“It always adds a different dimension to the race and with a lot of men around us it will keep us focused,” explained Ward.
The FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from Camps Drift, Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon, Durban from 18-20 February. - Supplied.