Dusi leg­end Graeme Pope-El­lis killed in freak ac­ci­dent

Weekend Witness - - Front Page - LLOYD BURNARD

GRAEME Pope-El­lis’s son, Lee, was one of many peo­ple in­volved in the Pi­eter­mar­itzburg and Mid­lands pad­dling com­mu­ni­ties to pay trib­ute to the “Pope”, as he was known by his peers.

“My dad is go­ing to be re­mem­bered for his sport­ing achieve­ments, but for us he will be re­mem­bered for be­ing a fan­tas­tic fa­ther, hus­band, brother and un­cle,” Lee said.

“He al­ways had time to lis­ten and of­fered such good ad­vice.”

Lee said he first learnt about his fa­ther’s achieve­ments when he was 10 years old through his class­mates, as his fa­ther would never speak of his own ac­com­plish­ments. “He was just in­cred­i­bly hum­ble,” said Lee.

A spokesper­son for the Dusi Ca­noe Marathon and a friend of Pope-El­lis, Ray de Vries, said all those close to the “Dusi King” are dev­as­tated by the sud­den loss.

“Graeme meant so much to the sport­ing com­mu­nity and not just the pad­dling com­mu­nity,” he said.

“Win­ning 15 out of 46 Du­sis shows you the met­tle of a man like that. He re­ally was a stand­out guy.”

De Vries spent time with Pope-El­lis just last week, when the pair took part in the Un­lim­ited Dusi Mfula Moun­tain Bik­ing event that saw par­tic­i­pants ride along the Dusi Ca­noe Marathon route.

“He was telling me how much he was en­joy­ing the ride,” said De Vries. “Hewas in such high spir­its.”

Chair­per­son of the Natal Ca­noe Club Cameron Macken­zie was equally shaken by the tragic news.

“I don’t think his shoes will ever be filled. His dom­i­nance of the sport is some­thing that will never be re­peated,” he said.

“One could not find a more dig­ni­fied cham­pion if they tried. It hasn’t even sunk in yet.”

Tim Cor­nish, who won the Dusi four times with Pope-El­lis, hailed his team-mate’s abil­ity.

“He was ab­so­lutely metic­u­lous in his prepa­ra­tion,” Cor­nish said.

“I only had to train and pad­dle with him. Tac­tics, lo­cal knowl­edge, equip­ment and prepa­ra­tion were all taken care of. He was amaz­ing.”

Martin Dreyer, who was coached by Pope-El­lis and has won seven Du­sis, re­mem­bers the in­flu­ence Pope-El­lis had on his ca­reer.

“When I ar­rived on the scene in 1998 with se­ri­ous plans to get into the top 10, no one re­ally wanted to help be­cause I was a threat. But not Graeme,” Dreyer said.

“He took me into his home for months, and showed me ev­ery­thing he knew about the race.”

Next year will mark the 60th an­niver­sary of the Dusi Ca­noe Marathon and it has al­ready been con­firmed that the 2011 race will be ded­i­cated to Pope-El­lis.


Graeme Pope­El­lis fin­ishes his 46th Hansa Pow­er­ade Dusi at Blue La­goon in Dur­ban in Jan­uary.

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