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Birkett wins stage one
- Updated: February 18, 2011
Andrew Birkett stormed to the overnight lead in The Unlimited Dusi canoe marathon on Thursday, shattering the 10-year-old stage record after a first stage peppered with dramatic developments that systematically derailed the top contenders.
Birkett, 20, who won last year’s K2 race along with Jason Graham, looked incredibly strong throughout the 43-kilometre first day and despite brief rudder trouble midway through the day he went on to take the win 46 seconds ahead of defending champion Ant Stott, reports Sport24.
ÔÇ£I got off to a good start and at the bottom of Ernie Pearce Weir. It was Len, myself and Ant out in the front which was quite special as we’re all from (Maritzburg) College. But after that it was a long slog all the way and once I took the lead I had to work incredibly hard to keep Ant (Stott) at bay,ÔÇØ said Birkett.
ÔÇ£I bent my rudder near The Witness Weir but fortunately Ant kindly tried to help me by hitting it down so I avoided the bank and then I stopped at the top of Campbell’s to put a new one on. Luckily that only cost me about a minute so it wasn’t too bad and I just had to really put the hammer down after that,ÔÇØ he added.
However Stott had problems of his own which destroyed any hopes he may have had of pulling away from the star studded pack.
ÔÇ£Coming over a small wooden bridge at Pine Tree portage one of the planks snapped under me and I went tumbling through. I was stuck with half my body in the bridge and half out, my boat went flying into the stream but I had to pick myself back up and refocus,ÔÇØ said Stott. ÔÇ£It was a little sore but when you’re racing you don’t feel any pain. I’m sure come Sunday morning I’ll know all about it though,ÔÇØ he added.
The widely fancied Michael Mbanjwa was the race leader at the end of the 4.5km long Campbell’s Farm portage, where Birkett and Stott both experienced problems. However the gutsy Birkett staged a charge from behind that saw him erase an almost one minute deficit by the end of the Guinea Fowl portage.
However with the remaining three of the so called ‘Big Five’ contenders Hank McGregor, Len Jenkins and Michael Mbanjwa all battling their way through the day’s stage, the real hero of Day One was the rapidly developing Eric Zondi who deservedly came home to claim the final podium position.
ÔÇ£I’m extremely happy with my third place today. Thanks must go to Martin Dreyer, Michael Mbanjwa and everyone involved in the Change a Life programme because without them I couldn’t have done this,ÔÇØ said an elated Zondi.
With development paddlers claiming eight of the top 13 places transformation appears to be on the up within the canoeing world and will particularly please Dreyer and his Change A Life team.
More drama unfolded in the women’s race as 20-year-old Robyn Kime made an error at Ernie Pearce Weir right at the start of the race and the resultant swim cost her 30 seconds which gave Abby Adie the chance to break free.
However Kime staged a thrilling charge that ended with her shattering the women’s Under-21 record by more than 15 minutes, in medium river conditions not well suited to breaking records.
ÔÇ£I think Abbey Miedema has passed on her curse to me. Every time in a single’s year she has fallen out at Ernie and then gone on to win the first day,ÔÇØ smiled Kime. ÔÇ£I just had to get back in and I managed to catch Abby at the sewage farm portage.ÔÇØ
ÔÇ£I don’t feel I pushed abnormally hard whilst I was paddling but I definitely had to work harder on the runs,ÔÇØ she added.
ÔÇ£Once I was in front I just went carefully but I’m not used to being in the front so I struggled to pace myself and Robs (Kime) was just so strong,ÔÇØ said second place finisher Abby Adie, who will start the second stage more than seven minutes behind Kime.
Change a Life Academy pupil Mmeli Cele ran and paddled his way to a five-minute lead in the junior boys race, finishing 17th overall. The junior girls race is being led by Under-16 star Bianca Haw.
The 43km second stage of the Unlimited Dusi is from Dusi Bridge to Inanda Dam.
More information can be found at www.dusi.co.za
Day One results:
1. Andrew Birkett (U21) 2:43.56
2. Ant Stott 2:44.42
3. Sibonelo Zondi 2:47.03
4. Michael Mbanjwa 2:47.37
5. Lance Kime (U21) 2:51.43
6. Hank McGregor 2:54.51
7. Thomas Ngidi 2:57.34
8. Piers Cruickshanks 2:57.45
9. Nhlanhlayakhe Cele 2:59.17
10. John Ngcobo 3:01.09
11. Grant Woollaston 3:01.38
12. Kwanda Mhlophe 3:01.42
13. Nkosikayise Cele 3:02.13
14. Zonele Nzuza 3:02.14
15. Lucas Mthalane 3:03.13
16. Shaun Griffin 3:03.42
17. Mmeli Cele 3:05.26
18. Richard Cele 3:05.27
19. Mark Mulder 3:06.56
20. Richard Fly 3:07.15
1. Robyn Kime 3:16.38
2. Abby Adie 3:24.06
3. Hilary Pitchford 3:35.22
4. Alex Adie 3:39.19
5. Donna Winter 3:46.47
6.┬á Bianca Haw 3:49.13
7. Debbie Germiquet 3:51.57
8. Mandy Rawlins 3:53.55
9. Diana Rietz 4:01.30
10. Tamika Haw 4:01.48
1. Mmeli Cele 3:05.26
2. Murray Haw 3:10.02
3. Siseko Ntondini 3:13.08
4. Andrew Adie 3:16.05
5. Andrew Houston 3:17.42
1. Bianca Haw 3:49.13
2. Brittany Petersen 4:03.08
3. Kate Arnott 4:04.13
4. Jenna Ward 4:24.40