7 March 2011
Michael Mbanjwa and Eric Zondi overcame low rivers and searing February heat to win the Unlimited Non-Stop Dusi canoe ultra-marathon on Friday, giving Mbanjwa his fourth victory in the gruelling one-day, 120km event and Zondi his second win in succession.
The pre-race favourites put in a powerful performance and hardly put a foot wrong all day en route to a comfortable win of over 13 minutes.
“The pace was hard at the start and Thomas (Ngidi) and Nlanhla (Cele) were looking strong. But we ran very well and our paddling was really powerful today. Eric was incredibly strong behind me and it’s so good to be at the top of the podium!” said a visibly satisfied Mbanjwa.
“It was always a dream of mine to win with Bunjee and to have done that today is unbelievable. I’m really happy to be in this position alongside him right now,” added Zondi.
Defending champ Thomas Ngidi and his partner Nhlanhla Cele very did well early on and stayed with Mbanjwa and Zondi until Mission Rapid. However, a slight error from Ngidi shortly afterwards opened the door for the leaders who took full advantage of the opportunity and put some invaluable distance between themselves and the rest of the field.
“It was a lot harder than 2010. There was a lot less water and it was very hot so after putting so much in to try to catch Bunjee and Eric we just had nothing left at the end,” explained an exhausted Ngidi.
“It’s going to be a challenge trying to beat these two in the future but we will try our best. You never say never,” he added.
It was a one-two-three finish for the Change A Life academy after Nhlanhla’s brother Richard Cele and Kwanda Mhlophe crossed the line in third place a further six minutes back.
“To see how the guys have grown in recent times and then to have them produce the results they did today is just fantastic,” said Change A Life coach Martin Dreyer.
“Michael and Eric are a young combination and they have a bright future ahead of them and I’m very proud of all our guys and what they achieved today.”
Despite the race traditionally being a K2 event, Mark Mulder showed tremendous grit and determination as he was the first across the line in a K1 and finished in a highly commendable fourth place overall.
“The heat was insane out there today and I’ve never paddled a river that was so low. I had aimed to try beat Hank’s K1 time but, given the conditions, I’m super chuffed with how things went and to finish fourth overall is just fantastic!” said Mulder.
Mulder wasn’t the only K1 to shine as the ladies’ race was also claimed by a single. Former winner and current holder of the ladies’ K1 record Hilary Pitchford took the lead early on in the race and didn’t look back all day.
“It was an incredibly long day and I had to work extremely hard but I’m very happy to be here all in one piece and to have won is just the cherry on the top!” said Pitchford.
Race conditions got tougher and tougher as the day went on and this unfortunately took a toll on some of field.
A near tragedy was narrowly avoided at the infamous Thombi Rapid after a K2 crew struggled to break free of their wrecked boat and were trapped underwater intermittently for seven minutes. However, swift work from nearby spectators and incredible camaraderie shown by their fellow paddlers ensured the two were pulled and rescued just in the nick of time.
Glen Haw also suffered an unfortunate mishap whilst running the Guinea Fowl portage which resulted in him fracturing his ankle and a third injured paddler was transported via helicopter to Tops Needle portage where he was treated by on-scene medical staff.
The Unlimited Non-stop Dusi took place from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban.
- Michael Mbanjwa/Eric Zondi 8:52:22
- Thomas Ngidi/Nhlanhla Cele 9:05:40
- Kwanda Mhlope/Richard Cele 9:12:03
- Mark Mulder (1st K1) 9:29:08
- Shaun Biggs/Derek Stutterheim 9:35:41
- Marc Germiquet 9:38:55
- Craig Turton/Mark Usher 10:01.44
- Brett Challenor/Clint Pretorius 10:10.29
- Glen Ellier 10:10.31
- Greg Carter-Brown/Stuart Clifton 10:16.37
- Hillary Pitchford
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