27 January 2014
A flood of young, black talent from throughout KwaZulu-Natal and around South Africa is set to descend on the 2014 Dusi Canoe Marathon as the sport’s development programmes continue to make a big impact. The 120-kilometre marathon takes place between Pietermaritzburg and Durban from 13 to 15 February.
In the past canoeing had been seen by many as a sport for the elite, but those times are gone and the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Department of Sport and Recreation has signed on as a major sponsor of the event, which includes providing support for paddlers from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.
Provincial Sport and Recreation Minister Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Saphetha believes events such as the Dusi are important for the province.
‘A major sporting event’
“The Dusi Canoe Marathon is a major sporting event in the province and it is key for us to maintain it as an event,” Sibhidla-Saphetha said in a statement on Friday.
“With it being such an important event, it draws in people from all over the country and even overseas, which turns the spotlight onto the province, something that is beneficial for us from both an economic and tourism point of view.”
Drawing people to Pietermaritzburg and Durban for the event is an element that the Department of Sport and Recreation felt they needed to manage and promote and that has formed an important part of their relationship with the iconic race.
Maximising economic growth
“Pietermaritzburg and Durban are popular cities in the province when it comes to hosting major sporting events,” Sibhidla-Saphetha said. “With a three-day event, the amount of people that pass through both centres is increased significantly and maximising the economic growth from the influx of people is important for us as a department.”
The department has not only taken on the role of being a major sponsor for the event but, by sponsoring this year’s race, they have also shown confidence in the numerous development initiatives that have been set up to encourage canoeing development throughout the province.
“We have been really encouraged by what we have seen in terms of development,” Sibhidla-Saphetha said. “There are a number of people that have grabbed the opportunity to spread the sport to the previously disadvantaged and we find that hugely positive.”
A number of development initiatives have been set up around the province to help young people get involved in the sport of canoeing with the MEC praising the efforts of the Natal Canoe Club, the organisers of the Dusi, after the canoeing giants recently formed a strong squad of emerging paddlers.
‘Making it accessible’
“We really need to thank the Natal Canoe Club for what they have done for the development of canoeing. They have taken on the development of a number of paddlers and have gone a long way in taking the sport from a previously elite sport to making it accessible for everyone,” she said.
Since the Natal Canoe Club Development Academy started in April 2013, over 2 000 children have been introduced to the sport. The club has also expanded its programme from its home at Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to two other sites, at Henley and Hopewell.
Now into its 63rd year of existence, the Dusi Canoe Marathon stands as one of South Africa’s most iconic sporting events staged within and is regarded by many as one of the most prestigious canoeing event in the world.
“It was important for us to be involved in one of the major events in the province and it is also vital that we give these young people the opportunity to experience being a part of such an important event,” Sibhidla-Saphetha said.
‘Building social cohesion’
“The sport, as all sports do, provides young people with a form of discipline and being able to work towards something is hugely important for them and for us. It goes a long way in building social cohesion in the province.”