The SteelCo Ozzie Gladwin on Sunday might have surprised 2019 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon pundits as Hank McGregor and Tamika Haw claimed victory in the men’s and women’s races respectively.
Despite Euro Steel’s McGregor having won the Dusi in February with Andy Birkett, many didn’t expect to see the veteran on the start line in a K1 following his retirement from K1 flat-water marathon racing earlier in the year.
McGregor’s last taste of K1 racing came at the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon in October where he lost out in an exciting tussle with Birkett; however he didn’t miss a beat on the Mngeni River to take home the coveted title and the KZN K1 river champs laurels for 2018.
The obvious absentee from the race was McGregor’s K2 partner Birkett. The seven-time Dusi winner has recently relocated to East London with his wife Nikki and their new born son David.
Birkett is still expected to be on Camps Drift on 14 February to defend his K1 title, however he will be absent from more seeding races than in previous years.
The fight on Sunday was an interesting one with two old hands, McGregor and Thulani Mbanjwa, fighting it out with the young and up-and-coming Stew Little.
It was a tight tussle right up to the end with just 39 seconds separating the three coming into the finish with Mbanjwa taking second and Little finishing in third. Little also took home the title of first Under 23 at the event.
Euro Steel’s Banetse Nkhoesa has been in strong form through the early stages of the Dusi season and finished fourth on Sunday to go with his win at the Umpetha Challenge in October.
It might be interesting to note that Euro Steel/Red Bull’s Sbonelo Khwela finished in tenth place overall. The former Dusi K2 winner has dominated the Dusi podium for a number of years but is yet to feature in the build up to the 2019 showdown.
Young under 18 paddlers Hamish Mackenzie and David Evans came home in fifth and sixth place respectively and look to be in good shape going into the final three months before the Dusi.
Mpilo Zondi was the second Under 23 home and seventh overall. The young Change a Life Academy star will be hoping that he can push hard for a strong result at the FNB Dusi.
In the ladies race, former Dusi K2 podium finisher Tamika Haw paddled to victory over a fairly inexperienced field this weekend.
The ladies results showed a new generation of paddler coming through with the likes of Jenna Ward, Bridgitte Hartley and Christie Mackenzie all absent.
Despite Haw having taken a break from competitive paddling, she cantered home to victory and the word is that she is working hard to challenge at the Dusi in February.
Chasing Tamika Haw home in the ladies race was a plethora of under 18 stars. Epworth’s Tracey Oellermann finished second and then just over a minute later school team mate Caitlin Mackenzie came home in third.
Fourth went to another Epworth paddler Cara Waud and taking home fifth spot and first Under 16 girl was Nosipho Mthembu.
The next 2019 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon seeding races are the Supa Quick Fezela Challenge at Albert Falls Dam on Sunday, 2 December and the Florida Dusi Klip race in Gauteng on Sunday, 2 December.