Epic Dusi victory for Zondi and Birkett | SASCOC - SASCOC

Epic Dusi victory for Zondi and Birkett

The final curtain came down on the 2014 Dusi Canoe Marathon amidst a frenzy of celebrations after Andy Birkett and Sbonelo Zondi were the first to the finish line at Blue Lagoon in Durban in front of thousands of supporters, friends and family.

The combination rounded out a near perfect performance by the pair over the three exhausting days of racing in the Msundusi and Mngeni River valleys.

With nearly nine minutes in the bag overnight, many expected the leaders to back off slightly on the third and final stage and play it safe however the impressive pair, pictured right, instead hammered the final nail into the coffin early in the day and then pushed themselves to a personal record time over the treacherous Burma Road portage before experiencing the thrill of crossing the finish line in front of Blue Lagoon’s lined banks.

ÔÇ£The whole journey has been amazing! I’m super chuffed ÔÇô especially with our discipline over this last year ÔÇô and it’s a really special feeling to have won!ÔÇØ said an elated Birkett. ÔÇ£It almost feels like this is the first Dusi I’ve ever won because of the whole change in start procedure here on day three and the finish is a really amazing experience!ÔÇØ

ÔÇ£At last! This is a dream come true for me! I’m so very, very happy! I can’ even express how happy I am today!ÔÇØ added a beaming Zondi.

The unforgiving heat of day one and two continued into the third and final stage however, as predicted ahead of the race by many, the pair relied on their remarkable strength and character as they took on the tough Burma Road portage.

ÔÇ£We went up and over Burma even quicker than we did in our time trial two weeks ago,ÔÇØ said EuroSteel’s Birkett.

ÔÇ£Sbonelo timed it for us but when we put in at the bottom and he said 25 minutes and 20 seconds I thought I hadn’t heard him correctly!

Triple Canoe Marathon World Champ Hank McGregor of Kayak Centre/Team Jeep and his surfski star partner Jasper Mock├® put in a valiant effort throughout the three days however they were simply unable to match Birkett and Zondi.

ÔÇ£We gave it our all. We put everything we had into these past three days.. We were just beaten by two very good athletes,ÔÇØ said McGregor afterwards.

ÔÇ£We discussed things and decided to go over Burma (Road) and we gave it our absolute all. We only ended up losing two minutes to Andy and Sbonelo, which I thought was a brilliant effort from us, but they were just phenomenal.

Mock├®, who finished fifth with Craig Turton in 2012 in his only other Dusi attempt, was ecstatic with his podium finish and glad to have been a part of the iconic event.

ÔÇ£There isn’t another race in the country like the Dusi in terms of hype.,ÔÇØ said Mock├®. ÔÇ£It is awesome to have finished on the podium and I’ve loved being a part of things again this year.ÔÇØ

Pope’s Canoe Centre’s Cam Schoeman and Jakub Adam of the Czech Republic gave it their all and, having paddled around Burma Road, held off the charging Thulani Mbanjwa and Lance Kime to finish on the bottom step of the podium.

ÔÇ£The last four days with Jakub have been cool but the whole journey with him has been awesome and we have spent quite a lot of time together and I am going to miss him when he goes back,ÔÇØ said Schoeman.

With the limelight firmly on Birkett and Zondi, a special effort from pre-race title hopefuls Kime and Mbanjwa on both days two and three saw them overcome their disastrous Commercial Road Weir incident on day one to fight their way back from 27th after stage one to fifth after stage two and finally claimed an extraordinary fourth position after Saturday’s third and final stage.

As Mbanjwa’s terrible Dusi luck continues, the entire paddling fraternity will be quietly hoping the tides will turn for him shortly, particularly after his and Kime’s monumental effort of immense character and determination.

A brave fight from EuroSteel’s Kwanda Mhlophe and Zonele Nzuza saw them deservedly and rather inconspicuously round out the top ten.

Andrew Houston and Ivan Kruger also put in a noteworthy performance as they clinched the Under-23 men’s title as well as a coveted top 10 gold medal while junior boys winners, Damon Stamp and Mthobisi Cele, had their dream of a top 10 shattered late in the stage, eventually crossing the line in a commendable 11th place.ÔÇ¿ÔÇ¿Meanwhile, Dusi Queen Abbey Ulansky clinched a record ninth career victory when she and her partner, fast emerging Dusi Princess Robyn Kime, held off a valiant effort from Abby Adie and Anna Adamov├í to clinch a hard-fought victory in the women’s race of the 2014 Dusi Canoe Marathon.

Kime and Ulansky started the day with just ninety seconds in the bank and knew they were always going to be in for a tough final stage if they were to claim a third consecutive title as a partnership.

A brave effort on the Burma Road portage in the midday heat and a strong finish saw them narrowly edge out a flying Adie and Adamová by just a single minute after 119km of racing.

ÔÇ£ÔÇ£We are over the moon to make it three in a row! Robs and I have paddled together for a while and formed a great partnership and this year was more challenging for us as number one we had stronger competition and number two we have had other commitments, so we weren’t as strong as we wanted to be but we had great fun and really worked hard,ÔÇØ said Ulansky.

ÔÇ£The win really is a cherry on the top of a fantastic trip back to South Africa. We worked hard for this win, which makes it even more special, and a great compliment to visiting friends and family in South Africa,ÔÇØ she added.

Ulansky subsequently announced her retirement from competitive racing at the Dusi while Kime will be out of paddling action in South Africa for the foreseeable future as she embarks on a sailing and mountain climbing adventure to and around South America.

ÔÇ£I’ve just finished my masters two weeks ago which has made the build-up to this year’s race quite challenging,ÔÇØ said Kime. ÔÇ£Now that the Dusi is done and my studies are done I’m free and my boyfriend and I are going travelling.

ÔÇ£We are joining an expedition to South America where we sailing from Cape Town to Brazil and then we’ll go climb some mountains in Bolivia and Peru and I’m very excited about that!ÔÇØ she added.

For Adie it was a bitter-sweet result as she and Adamová came so close to victory however eventually had to settled for her sixth consecutive second place.

ÔÇ£We tried so hard and it’s a little disappointing to have come so close and not been able to win it but we worked really hard and in the end it wasn’t quite enough,ÔÇØ said Adie.

Under-23 sisters Bianca and Tamika Haw hung onto their overnight third position to round out the podium while Hilary Bruss and alex Adie as well as Jen Theron and Jane Swarbreck rounded out the top five.

Camilla Pennefather and Cana Peek claimed the spoils in the Under-18 girls race ahead of Sarah Harries and Julia Trodd.

Picture: Anthony Grote, Gameplan Media


1.Andy Birkett/Sbonelo Zondi 2:13.17 7:44.50
2.Hank McGregor/Jasper Mock├® 2:14.29 7:53.59
3.CamSchoeman/ Jakub Adam (CZE) 2:19.39 8:10.09
4.Lance Kime/Thulani Mbanjwa 2:16.19 8:15.34
5.Kwanda Mhlophe/Zonele Nzuza 2:19.27 8:17.59
6. Craig Turton/Simon van Gysen 2:23.53 8:24.20
7.Siseko Ntondini/Piers Cruickshanks 2:25.58 8:26.23
8.Loveday Zondi/Thando Ngamlana 2:26.04 8:26.29
9.Andrew Houston/Ivan Kruger (U23) 2:23.44 8:29.19
10.Kelvin Trautman/David Wood 2:24.11 8:29.46
11.Damon Stamp/Mthobisi Cele (U18) 2:27.31 8:30.55
12.Shaun Biggs/Wayne Thompson 2:25.40 8:32.46
13.Lucas Mthalane/Mmeli Cele 2:22.22 8:34.38
14.David Chaplin/Mark Mulder 2:22.07 8:34.45
15.Mhlonishwa Hlongwane/Nqobile Makhanya (U23) 2:26.06 8:38.45
16.Carl Folscher/Ben Biggs 2:26.23 8:39.01
17.Richard Cele/Nhlanhla Cele 2:25.58 8:42.24
18.Owen Gandar/Matthew Dean (U23) 2:26.03 8:42.27
19.Ronald Smith/Thomas Ngidi 2:26.43 8:43.08
20.Skhumbuso Ngidi/Nkosikayise Cele 2:29.07 8:46.32

Under-23 Men
1. Andrew Houston/Ivan Kruger 2:23.44 8:29.19
2. Mhlonishwa Hlongwane/Nqobile Makhanya 2:26.06 8:38.45
3. Owen Gandar/Matthew Dean 2:26.03 8:42.27

Junior Boys
1.Damon Cele/Mthobisi Cele 2:27.31 8:30.55
2.Patrick Dillon/Alan Houston 2:32.41 9:08.38
3.Mphilo Zondi/Nkhosi Mabaso 2:42.34 9:33.54

1.Robyn Kime/Abbey Ulansky 2:31.02 8:50.59
2.Abby Adie/Anna Adamova 2:30.05 8:52.06
3.Tamika Haw/Bianca Haw (U23) 2:41.26 9:36.35
4.Hilary Bruss/Alex Adie 2:45.39 9:43.20
5.Jen Theron/Jane Swarbreck 2:40.19 9:46.12
6. Jenna ward/Kerry Segal (U23) 2:38.04 10.00.03
7.Carmen Donald/Debbie Germiquet 2:50.12 10:06.08
8.Jordan Peek/Brittany Petersen (U23) 2:42.27 10:07.04
9.Susan Carter-Brown/Kelly Howe 2:50.58 10:18.37
10.Camilla Pennefather/Cana Peek (U18) 2:47.21 10:36.47

Under-23 Women
1.Tamika Haw/Bianca Haw 2:41.26 9:36.35
2.Jenna ward/Kerry Segal 2:38.04 10.00.03
3.Jordan Peek/Brittany Petersen 2:42.27 10:07.04

Junior Girls
1.Camilla Pennefather/Cana Peek 2:47.21 10:36.47
2.Sarah Harries/Julia Trodd 3:35.33 11:45.38
3.Kennedy Stone/Rebecca Martin 3:17.26 13:06.29