New names ready to win the Dusi

CHANGES: Veteran ‘Dusi Rats’ chased hard by hun­gry pack of ‘Dusi Brats’

Weekend Witness - - Sport - DAVID KNOWLES

THERE’S a pos­si­ble chang­ing of the guard at the front of the Dusi Ca­noe Marathon as a gen­er­a­tion of young, elite paddlers stand up to be counted.

For many years, ob­servers and fol­low­ers of the race have grown fa­mil­iar with the dice for top spot be­tween Dusi reg­u­lars such as Ant Stott, Len Jenk­ins, Thu­lani Mbanjwa and Hank McGre­gor. Now a new gen­er­a­tion of paddlers is coming through, a bunch of highly tal­ented un­der 23 paddlers who have served their time since be­ing in the un­der 18 ranks.

Three-time win­ner of the Dusi, Andy Bir­kett is a prime ex­am­ple, stamp­ing his author­ity on the race as a sin­gles and dou­bles pad­dler. This is his last year in the u23 ranks and he is keen to keep his mo­men­tum go­ing. He has proven he is un­daunted by the big guns and a fourth win in the race could be con­sid­ered a sure bet.

An­other young­ster worth fol­low­ing is Lance Kime (21), sec­ond in last year’s non-stop Un­lim­ited Dusi and just out of the podium places in the three-day race. He hopes to get a top-three fin­ish this year as he launches his as­sault on over­all glory in the race.

Throw in the likes of Kime’s pad­dling part­ner from last year, Kwanda Mh­lope, as well as Ben Biggs, Siseko Nton­dini, Mmeli Cele and Bran­don van der Walt and the pos­si­ble top 10 in the men’s race have al­ready been de­cided. Th­ese young paddlers are bid­ing their time, learn­ing the ins and outs of the route in prepa­ra­tion for their moment of tri­umph.

Although an ace in the South African slalom, Don­a­van Wewege could push the Dusi’s big guns all the way to the fin­ish. He im­pressed at last week­end’s N3TC Drak Chal­lenge, adapt­ing to the rav­aging Umz­imkulu wa­ters to fin­ish fourth, ahead of Kime, Stott, Jacques Theron and Cam Schoe­man. With Mur­ray Starr, James Speed and Mur­ray Haw, Wewege had pad­dling fol­low­ers sit­ting up and tak­ing note of the new gen­er­a­tion burst­ing onto the scene as they fin­ished their fi­nal year in the ju­nior ranks last year. They have started this year with a clear mes­sage and are a po­tent force in the com­pet­i­tive U23 age group.

For this year’s race though, the names of the reg­u­lar “Dusi Rats” should still dom­i­nate pro­ceed­ings, but they will be look­ing over their shoul­ders.

The new, young gen­er­a­tion, led by Bir­kett, have gath­ered their forces and it’s just a mat­ter of time be­fore some new names are writ­ten in the chap­ters of the race.

The Un­lim­ited Dusi is from Fe­bru­ary 14 to 16.

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Don­a­van Wewege’s fourth place at last week­end’s N3TC Drak Chal­lenge has el­e­vated him to a pos­si­ble chal­lenger for next month’s Un­lim­ited Dusi ti­tle.

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