Pietermaritzburg – The recently concluded 2015 Dusi Canoe Marathon was yet another major highlight for Martin Dreyer’s Computershare Change a Life Academy whose paddlers clinched no fewer than three gold medals, claimed 18 of the top 50 silver medal places and occupied four of the six age group podium positions, and they’re not done yet.
Friday 6 March’s 2015 Non Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon draws near and the Valley of a Thousand Hills setup is relishing a second opportunity to impress on the Msundusi and Mngeni Rivers.
Euro Steel/Red Bull’s Sbonelo Khwela powered to third place overall behind a powerful Andy Birkett and Lance Kime and the Change a Life ambassador was then joined by fellow Shongweni local Banesti Nkhoesa (seventh) and Inanda Dam based Mhlonishwa Hlongwane (eighth) inside the top ten.
“It was such a tough three days racing against Lance and Andy,” explained Khwela. “I am very happy with my third place though and a big thanks to everyone from Shongweni as well as my sponsors, Euro Steel, Red Bull and Change a Life!”
Nkhoesa and Hlongwane finished second and third in the hotly contested Under-23 men’s class as well and have now paired up to form a powerful K2 combination for this year’s Non Stop Dusi.
“Thinking about my seventh position in the Dusi makes me so happy that I can’t sleep!” enthused an emotional Nkhoesa shortly after crossing the finish line. “Hard work pays off most of the time and today it did!”
“Thank you to Change a Life for all the support! I could not ask for a better way to start the year!” he added.
As Nkhoesa, Hlongwane and twelfth place finisher Nqobile Makhanya replaced the likes of Lucas Mthalane, Richard, Mmeli and Nhlanhla Cele and Kwanda Mhlope as the academy’s new senior pace-setters, the ‘old-guard’ still put in impressive performances once again.
The focus in the build-up to this year’s Dusi was however on the next generation of Change a Life Zulus and Under-17 flyer Mpilo Zondi’s second place in the junior boys’ clash and 22nd place finish overall has many excited about the young star’s age group title challenge in 2016 and his future as a senior competitor.
While Michaelhouse’s Alan Houston claimed the junior boys’ title for 2015, Zondi’s fellow junior team mate Msawenkosi Mtolo further strengthened the Change a Life presence on the junior boys’ podium as he made the bottom step his own while Thabani Msiya made it three out of the top four junior boys’ boats.
“We had a big team this year and the guys really pulled things off,” said former ‘Dusi Duke’ and founder of the academy, Martin Dreyer.
“There were one or two disappointments but for Change a Life paddlers to contribute 36% of the top 50 is a result far better than I could ever have expected!
“There are a few new faces starting to emerge and it was great to see their huge efforts paying off at this year’s Dusi!” he added.
The RMB Change a Life mountain bikers were also a familiar sight in the Msundusi and Mngeni Valleys throughout the Dusi as they helped their paddling counterparts by using their superior knowledge of the valley and sublime cycling skills to transport food, water and spares to hard-to-reach locations.
“It was a bonus having my Change a Life mountain bikers at my finger tips for Dusi!” said Dreyer.
“To get 40 litres of fluids up to the top of Nqumeni Hill portage where vehicles aren’t allowed to go would have been a major problem had it not been for their help!”
While next Friday’s ‘Dusi in a day’ may not be as much of a focus for the Change a Life setup, Nkhoesa and Mhlonishwa will be joined by Sbonelo Khwela and Sboniso Shozi, both opting to tackle the race in a K1.
“Non Stop is more like the Dusi afterparty and it’s the guys who have done well and just can’t wait to get back on the river that put their hands up for this mammoth challenge. We try to support them as best we can but there certainly isn’t any pressure on anyone to do Non Stop,” explained Dreyer.
The 2015 Non Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban on Friday 6 March. More information can be found at www.nonstopdusi.co.za
SUMMARY OF RESULTS – COMPUTERSHARE CHANGE A LIFE ACADEMY
DUSI CANOE MARATHON
7.Banesti Nkhoesa (U23)
8.Mhlonishwa Hlongwane (U23)
12.Nqobile Makhanya (U23)
17.Mthobisi Cele (U23)
21.Mpilo Zondi (U18)
27.Kwanda Mhlope (U23)
29.Sboniso Shozi (U23)
32.Msawenkosi Mtolo (U18)
39.Thabani Msiya (U18)
43.Khumbulani Nzimande (U23)
51.Siyanda Gwamanda (U18)
Under -18 Boys