Defending champ Mbanjwa battles illness ahead of 2016 Non-Stop Dusi

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Pietermaritzburg – Five time Non-Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon winner and defending champion Thulani Mbanjwa is in a race against time to recover for Friday, 4 March’s ‘Dusi in a Day’ ultra marathon after falling ill during his eighth place 2016 FNB Dusi effort last week.

The Build it/Williams Hunt athlete, who charged to victory with Computershare Change a Life Academy talent Nhlanhla Cele in 2015, is desperate to overcome a stomach bug that has left him bedridden since Saturday’s conclusion of the FNB Dusi and challenge for a sixth Non-Stop Dusi title.

Should he recover in time and achieve the feat, the win would see him then just one win away from equalling Martin Dreyer’s record for the most Non-Stop Dusi victories.

“I’m struggling with Dusi guts and at the moment I don’t see myself being ready to race Non-Stop Dusi in two weeks’ time!” said Mbanjwa.

“I hope I can get better in time though because I’m very keen to try chase down Martin (Dreyer)’s record!” he added.

Having first raced to victory with Dreyer himself in 2007 on the back of their historic 2007 Dusi win, the pair then repeated the feat in 2008 before Mbanjwa successfully partnered Piers Cruickshanks, Sbonelo Khwela and, most recently, Cele to victory in 2009, 2011 and 2015 respectively.

So impressive were Mbanjwa and Cele in the boat together at last year’s Non-Stop Dusi that many foresaw the duo teaming up for the recent 2016 FNB Dusi, some even suggesting they could challenge for the iconic race’s title.

The former however opted to tackle this year’s FNB Dusi with former Marathon World Champ Shaun Rubenstein instead, leaving Cele to partner his brother Mthobisi Cele and, in the process, dashing the likelihood of he and Cele reuniting for their Non-Stop Dusi title defence.

The unavailability of some of the sport’s top elite racers has put a further spanner in Mbanjwa’s Non-Stop Dusi plans.

2016 FNB Dusi winning combination Andy Birkett and Lance Kime have both confirmed they will not take part in this year’s Non-Stop Dusi – Birkett instead opting to second his brother while Kime jets off back to Europe to continue his overseas adventures on Thursday, 25 February with four time Non-Stop Dusi champion Khwela electing to take on the challenge alone.

While still unlikely to struggle to find a partner for the upcoming ultra marathon as the likes of 2010 Non-Stop Dusi winner Thomas Ngidi and many others would undoubtedly jump at the opportunity to partner an athlete of Mbanjwa’s calibre, top of mind for the Valley of a Thousand Hills hero remains ensuring he returns to full health in time for the challenge.

The 2016 Non-Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon starts at Camps Drift, Pietermaritzburg at 05h30 on Friday, 4 March with the leaders expected to arrive at the finish at Blue Lagoon, Durban at approximately 13h00. More information can be found at www.nonstopdusi.co.za.