Zondi and Kime race to Dusi records on opening day | SASCOC - SASCOC

Zondi and Kime race to Dusi records on opening day

Sbonelo Zondi and Robyn Kime blazed their way to new stage records in The Unlimited Duzi canoe marathon men’s and women’s races respectively on Thursday, giving themselves the perfect platform to build on over the next two stages of the three-day affair.

After a solid yet uneventful start by Computershare Change a Life’s Zondi he then caught countless paddling enthusiasts around the country unawares as he flew past triple defending champ Andy Birkett and the rest of the men’s field and, despite a late surge from Birkett, never looked back, grabbing a valuable 20-second overnight lead.

Zondi, having brought in some great form to this year’s class, claimed his maiden K1 first place finish and, understandably, was ecstatic with his efforts, especially having broken the stage record by 39 seconds.

ÔÇ£I’m very, very happy about my result. To be the first here at Number Nine (Dusi Bridge) for the first time is greatÔÇØ said Zondi. ÔÇ£I didn’t think about trying to break the record. I just tried to race my own race today and the record, it just happened but I’m very happy about it.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£The race went the way I was planning. I started well but was a bit off the pace early on. The group was quite big as I was struggling towards the back of it. I didn’t panic though, I just stuck to Ant and he pulled me to the front group again.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£From there I just tried to race my own race and pace myself. I told myself there’s a long day ahead, there are long portages and the portages are one of my strengths.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£I stuck to my plan but at the top of Campbell’s (portage), Martin Dreyer told me that Andy Birkett was already one minute ahead of me. Again, I told myself not to panic and kept just trying to pace myself all the way to Guinea Fowl.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£After I caught the guys I knew it was time to go and I put the hammer down to test the guys, to see if they were still strong. I saw Andy and Lance Kime coming with me, but I didn’t think too much about the race with them at that stage, I just focused on my own plan to get to the finish.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£To have crossed the line first is amazing and I’m so happy. There’s lots still to do tomorrow though and Andy isn’t far behind so I’ll still have work very hard.ÔÇØ

Having set the stage record himself in 2011 Birkett had to settle for second place this time round, himself going better than his previous best by 19 seconds, however is strongly poised to launch his expected attack at some stage throughout the second day.

Birkett, himself seen as somewhat of a surprise package just a couple of years ago, was however well aware of Zondi’s capabilties coming into this year’s spectacle and tipped his hat at his fellow youngster’s day one effort.

ÔÇ£I knew before the start that Eric was going to be one of the strongest guys out there today because of his running strength. When we got to Guinea Fowl and he came past all of us, including Bungee (Thulani Mbanjwa), looking very strong and it was then that I realised he was going to be the man to chase down towards the finish,ÔÇØ said Birkett.

ÔÇ£I was lucky in the fact that I was able to stay near the front for most of the day today. After Eric (Zondi) passed us at Guinea Fowl, I tried to catch up to him every single time on the water when he got away from us on the portages.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Congrats to him on breaking the record. He paddled and he ran really well today. I’m really chuffed for him. Tomorrow’s going to be a great day.ÔÇØ

The third of the young trio to have dominated proceedings on the opening day was Birkett’s fellow Team best 4 Kayak Centre team mate Lance Kime as the slender figure surged past pre-race favourites Thulani Mbanjwa, Hank McGregor and Len Jenkins to claim third position overnight.

Kime, having made his mark on the race in last year’s edition when he and K2 partner Kwanda Mhlope powered to fourth place overall having been in the top three after the second stage, continued to impress.

ÔÇ£I’m obviously very very chuffed. Coming into this year people were been saying it’s the most competitive year in a while so I certainly hadn’t set my sights on a top three, I probably would have been very happy with a top five or even a top ten so it’s definitely a big achievement for me,ÔÇØ said Kime.

ÔÇ£It all just came together for me today though. I had a good start and my legs felt good for most of the day and to have stayed in contact with the front two and go into a day like tomorrow still in sight of the front two is phenomenal.ÔÇØ

It’s also great to see some youngsters at the front. Andy Birkett has just kept raising the bar with his three consecutive wins and think I that’s influencing all of us now.ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£Nobody would have predicted a record would have been broken today. The river was very low and very hot conditions ÔÇô definitely not suited to breaking the record ÔÇô so it just shows how the guys have gone from strength to strength and maybe some of the older ‘ballies’ need to wake up a bit,ÔÇØ he chuckled.

Valley hero and Dusi icon Thulani Mbanjwa (Kayak Racing) crossed the line fourth over five minutes after Kime looking exceptionally tired however, as many have come to learn in recent years, you never write off ‘Bungee’.

He will also be aided by the company of Hank McGregor (Team Best 4 Kayak Centre), who finished eleven seconds behind Mbanjwa, and the pair may well look to work together to reel in the young trio in tomorrow’s challenging and longest stage of the three.

Fellow pre-race big name Len Jenkins (Team Shackleton) battled to find a rhythm throughout the day however hung onto a sixth place and was closely followed home by Zonele Nzuza, Carl Folscher and Jason Graham to round out the top ten.

Major absentees from the list of top ten men were Ant Stott, who finished just outside in eleventh, and Shaun Rubenstein, who after a broken pedal, limped home in 34th position with his race seemingly in tatters.

The second stage of The Unlimited Dusi starts on Friday at Dusi Bridge, and ends at Msinsi Resort on Nagle dam. The race ends at Blue Lagoon in Durban on Saturday.

1 Sbonelo Zondi 2min 43min 17sec (new record)
2 Andy Birkett (Under-23) 2:43:37
3 Lance Kime (Under-23) 2:45:26
4 Thulani Mbanjwa 2:50:52
5 Hank McGregor 2:51:03
6 Len Jenkins 2:55:20
7 Zonele Nzuza 2:55:27
8 Loveday Zondi 2:56:51
9 Carl Folscher2:56:52
10 Jason Graham 2:57:07
11 Ant Stott 2:58:13
12 Jakub Adam 2:58:14
13 Nhlanhla Cele (Under-23) 2:59:35
14 Cam Schoeman 3:00:59
15 Thomas Ngidi 3:01:21
16 Lucas Mthalane 3:01:36
17 Siseko Ntondini (Under-23) 3:02:12
18 Michael Odvarko 3:02:13
19 Mmeli Cele (Under-23) 3:02:23
20 Jacques Theron 3:04:47

1 Andy Birkett 2:43:37
2 Lance Kime 2:45:26
3 Nhlanhla Cele 2:59:35

1 Damon Stamp 3:04:57
2 Travis Wilson 3:04:58
3 Nqobile Makhanya 3:08:15

1 Robyn Kime (U23) 3:11:21
2 Abby Adie 3:25:15
3 Bianca Haw (U18) 3:26:45
4 Hilary Pitchford 3:32:00
5 Jen Theron 3:33:29