After some significant rain in the uMsundusi system recently, the ever-green Thulani Mbanjwa opted to do some training on the river ahead of the 2019 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon from 14-16 February 2019.
The 35 year-old won his only Dusi title in a K2 with Martin Dreyer in 2008 but has been a perennial top five finisher at the iconic three-day race. In the three previous K1 editions of the event he has a fifth, a fourth and most recently a third place finish overall.
Mbanjwa has always been one of the most liked paddlers around and is always sporting a smile, even after the toughest of days, but the veteran knows that he has what it takes to finish in the upper tier of results again in 2019.
“I am ready to fight for it next year,” a determined Mbanjwa said. “As I get older I know that I have to push myself even harder to keep up with the younger guys but I have always said you cannot buy experience.
“You have to be clever about where you put your nose when you paddle the Dusi. It doesn’t matter how quick you are on the flat water if you haven’t done your preparation on the river.”
After an impressive storm earlier in the week, Euro Steel’s Mbanjwa and a training group were able to get onto the river to refresh their minds on lines through some of the major obstacles they will come across in less than two months’ time.
“It was probably only the second time I have been on the river training but it was good to get that river paddling feeling back.
“I needed to remind myself of the lines down Mission and some of the other sneaks so I enjoyed getting back on the river,” he added.
Mbanjwa has watched Euro Steel team mate Andy Birkett win the previous two K1 races and believes that he will be the man to watch again in 2019, however understands that there will be a number of other paddlers challenging for the title.
“Andy will be on top of his game next year. Even if he isn’t in KZN being able to paddle his surfski is good training for river racing.
“Even though Sbonelo (Khwela) hasn’t featured so far he is going to peak at the Dusi and is training really hard so you can never count him out.
“Banetse (Nkhoesa) and Stew Little are also going really well and there are a few Change a Life paddlers that are looking strong as well.
“It is going to be a really good race again. I am looking forward to the challenge!” Mbanjwa mentioned.
He might be slightly older than his fellow Dusi top five competitors, but Mbanjwa isn’t too keen to talk retirement just yet.
“As long as I have the time and the energy to train I will keep coming back and competing.
“Judging by where I am at the moment in terms of early season results I think I am in good shape and as long as I can keep on doing well I’ll carry on racing hard,” an assured Mbanjwa concluded.