Dusi champ Sbonelo teams up with world champ Hank | SASCOC - SASCOC

Dusi champ Sbonelo teams up with world champ Hank

Recently crowned Dusi champion Sbonelo Zondi dropped a last minute bombshell in the flurry of 11th hour entries for Friday’s Non Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon by changing his K1 plans to a K2 entry with none other than Canoe Marathon World Champion Hank McGregor.

Zondi, who raced to Dusi victory with fellow EuroSteel star Andy Birkett earlier this month, had initially hoped to continue his journey with Birkett in this year’s Non-Stop Dusi and bid for a rare Dusi/Non-Stop Dusi double.

He was forced to change his plans though when Birkett decided not to take part in this year’s Non-Stop Dusi, leaving Zondi partnerless and preparing to go the distance alone.

A last minute change of heart though saw Zond, pictured right, contact Kayak Centre/Team Jeep’s McGregor and a positive response on Tuesday got the ball rolling for the curious combination.

ÔÇ£In the beginning my plan wasn’t to do Non-Stop Dusi on my own. I wanted to paddle with Andy Birkett again but when he told me he wasn’t going to race Non-Stop then I decided to do it in my K1. Even though I said I was okay doing it alone, I wasn’t all that confident because it’s a very long way!,ÔÇØ explained Zondi.

ÔÇ£I woke up during the night on Monday night and something just told me that I was making a mistake and that I needed to find a partner for Non-Stop! I sent Hank (McGregor) a message and he replied mid-morning on Tuesday saying he was happy to paddle Non-Stop with me.

ÔÇ£I’m really happy to have someone in the boat with me to talk to and to keep me motivated throughout the race,ÔÇØ he added.

While both pedigree performers in their own right, the pair form an unusual combination as they are two very different athletes. ÔÇ£Hank is obviously a very good paddler and I’m a good runner,ÔÇØ explained Zondi. ÔÇ£I’m not sure how we’ll combine but Hank is a great athlete and he knows what to do.

ÔÇ£I’m sure he won’t try kill me with the paddling and I will try not push him too hard on the runs,ÔÇØ he chuckled.

Albeit an unusual combination, Zondi is hopeful the pair will still be successful, despite the presence of some other talented crews. ÔÇ£From my side our goal is to get onto the podium. A win would be a bonus because we have come together so late and won’t have much time to get in the boat together and see how we combine.

ÔÇ£Lance (Kime) and Bungee (Thulani Mbanjwa) will be extremely strong and I think they have a point to prove after their bad luck during Dusi!

ÔÇ£I also remember how strong Kelvin (Trautman, paddling with David Wood) was in 2012. He and his brother came flying past us on one of the last portages still looking so strong when Bungee and I were tired,ÔÇØ he added.

With limited time before racing gets underway at 05h30 on Friday 28 February, Zondi and McGregor are unlikely to have much chance to paddle together and test how they go in a boat.

ÔÇ£We are paddling in Hank’s Dusi boat so we’re waiting for it to come back from Kayak Centre. Hopefully we’ll be able to paddle together this afternoon or tomorrow but, even if that does happen, there is very little time to sort anything out if we need to!ÔÇØ

Zondi and McGregor’s Non-Stop Dusi effort will start with Zondi seeking a fourth Non-Stop victory whilst McGregor will be looking to add to his legacy of being the first person ever win the event, open to K1s and K2s alike, on his own.

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