Zondi claims Dusi double

Sbonelo Zondi (Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media)
Sbonelo Zondi (Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media)

Pietermaritzburg - Newly crowned Dusi champion Sbonelo Zondi's fairy tale season continued on Friday as he clinched a rare double at the Non-Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon in Pietermaritzburg.

Winning the Dusi title two weeks ago with partner Andy Birkett, Zondi and triple world champion Hank McGregor claimed victory on the Msunduzi and Mngeni Rivers.

"It is just unbelievable to have won both the Dusi and the Non-Stop Dusi this year," Zondi said on Friday.

"I'm especially happy because Andy [Birkett] and I worked so hard before the Dusi and so it's really nice to enjoy the rewards now. I would also like to thank Hank for agreeing to be my partner right at the last minute, as well as our seconding crew. Without them we probably would have been tempted to have pulled out at some point today."

McGregor, who took the event by storm in 2006 when he became the first participant to win in a K1, claimed his second Non-Stop Dusi title.

"It is really hard to explain how much pain we went through, especially going over Burma Road portage," McGregor said.

"It was an honour to paddle with Sbonelo today. He was just so strong and now I know exactly why he won the Dusi this year, he deserved it.

"To have only paddled together for the first time on Thursday night at five o'clock and then to come here and win, it's a really awesome feeling."

Having had Lance Kime and Thulani Mbanjwa close the gap to just 20 seconds at the bottom of the Nqumeni Hill portage, Zondi admitted the pair had to dig deep to shake their rivals.

"Hank was unreal on the water from Nqumeni to the Inanda Dam wall," Zondi said.

"We knew ... we were going to have to push to try get well ahead of Lance and Bungee (Mbanjwa).

"Hank really pushed me on the water."

Despite having finished over 12 minutes behind the leaders, second-placed Kime and Mbanjwa put in a stellar effort and pushed the leaders for much of the first half of the contest.

"Hank and Sbonelo were just stronger than us today," Kime said.

"It was tight until Nqumeni, but once they got away they just stretched and stretched their lead and there was simply no catching them.

Mbanjwa said the non-stop race was extremely tough.

"Just when you think you've prepared for the race it just keeps getting harder and harder," he said.

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