After six consecutive second places in the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon, a determined Abby Solms has her sights firmly set on finally stepping onto the top step of the Dusi podium in Durban on 20 February 2016.
The 26 year old Euro Steel star has been central to the FNB Dusi women’s race for the past decade, but has somehow never managed to win the country’s most famous canoeing title.
Last season she elected to step away from the pressure of racing for the women’s K1 title – the 2015 title was won by Laura O’Donaghue – with Solms opting to paddle with her father instead.
That was after her heroic bid with Czech Republic star Anna Kožíšková in 2014 ended in a cruel string of final stage disasters that derailed what could have been her maiden Dusi title.
“Look I am not going to mince my words, I really want to win this Dusi with Anna (Kožíšková),” said Solms, perhaps better known in the general public as Abby Adie before her marriage to Kyle Solms earlier in 2015.
“I think the outcome of the 2014 race did affect my confidence for a while, but Anna ( Kožíšková) and I are really determined now to come back in 2016 and put that right,” said Solms.
“That is river racing. The 2014 race is actually a very strong motivator for me now,” added Solms. “I am at the stage now where I firmly believe it is now or never, and we will train, prepare and race as hard as we possibly can.”
After posting a thoroughly impressive win in the Hansa Fish in October with Kožíšková, who had just won the women’s World Marathon Championships K1 crown after subduing the current queen of global marathoning Renata Csay, Solms and Kožíšková are now training on opposite ends of the planet.
The pair have become good friends over the years, and exchange frequent mails and text messages to stay in touch with each others training.
“We both think about Dusi every day,” confessed Solms.
“Anna is so strong and I trust her training completely.
“I see her training in the cold and the snow of the European winter, so I know that she won’t be doing that much paddling. I know she will arrive her completely race ready.
“She is due to arrive in South Africa just after the N3TC Drak Challenge in late January, and we will just make the best we can with the time available to us,” she added.
The duo formed a formidable combination on the water at the Hansa Fish as the raw power of the small, powerful Czech superstar gelled with Solms accumulated experience as a river racing tactician and proved to be untouchable on that occasion.
“It is interesting because Anna is so very strong, both paddling and running!” said Solms. “I try my best to keep up with her and do my best at steering the boat.”
The FNB Dusi will be unusual for Solms who’s current ally, Jenna Ward, will turn competition as they both await the arrival of their overseas partners.
They have formed a formidable bond through the first part of the season with three wins at the Umpetha Challenge, Ozzie Gladwin and, most recently, the StaminaGro 50 Miler.
“It is a bit sad to end the partnership with Jenna because we have clicked, both on and off the water.
“While I am totally committed to Anna (Kožíšková) for the Dusi, it is great to know that there is a partnership close to home that I can call in the future,” said Solms.