Having forged a formidable combination with Abby Solms in recent months, Jenna Ward’s FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon partner Vanda Kiszli, the Hungarian Under-23 Marathon World Champion, has arrived in the country and has hit the ground running as they prepare for the 18-20 February showdown.
The Ward and Solms combination was in fine form with wins at all of the major FNB Dusi seeding races so far including the Umpetha Challenge, Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon presented by Parklane Superspar and the StaminGro 50 Miler.
“Abby and my results have come as quite a shock to me to be honest!” Ward said candidly.
“I thought that we would do well in the women’s field but I didn’t expect to do as well in the men’s race!” she added after her and Solms finished the 50 Miler in fourteenth place in the overall field.
With the recent arrival of Ward’s partner from Hungary, it is going to be an interesting month and a half for the pair as they build up for the iconic three-day journey with Ward having to get Kiszli up to speed on river marathon racing.
“Vanda arrived on 4 January so it does give us quite a bit of time in the boat and hopefully enough time to get her up to speed with river racing – I don’t think she has ever done a river race before!
“I know that she is an incredibly strong paddler so I don’t think that we will have any problems on the water but we will have to do quite a bit of running in our preparations!” Ward mentioned.
Following an interesting initial Skype call to get acquainted, Kiszli’s arrival has prompted her to learn English quickly and Ward has been impressed by the speed with which she is learning.
With the women’s race expected to be a closely fought race Ward has earmarked a few crews that she believes her and Kiszli are going to have to watch out for over the three days.
“Abby (Solms) and Anna (Kožíšková) are definite favourites going into the race, something that I don’t think anyone can argue with, but it is the Dusi and anything can happen so we will definitely try and put as much pressure on them.
“Cana (Peek) and Kyeta (Purchase) are another really strong crew, even though they will also be racing in the junior category I think they will be tough to beat,” a wary Ward mentioned.
Despite the excitement of a tight ladies race Ward feels that there is more at stake for them than just racing the other ladies.
“The Dusi is always two races in one. Racing in the ladies race but also trying to race against the men and do as well as you can against them.
“It always adds a different dimension to the race and with a lot of men around us it will keep us focused,” explained Ward.
Ward’s Dusi experience is something that she is hoping to draw on in February and although she won’t have too much time in the front of the boat between the Festive season and the race she is not too fazed.
“I am actually glad that I am going to be at the front of the boat again, I really enjoy driving.
“I have learnt a lot from Abby in the last few weeks, however, thinking back on it, I like to believe I would have done a lot of the same things that Abby did in terms of lines down rapids, etc. so I am confident that I can do the same come Dusi time.
“I have never been this prepared for a Dusi before and with a low one expected we are going to have to do a lot of running training so it’s going to be a serious push now that Vanda has arrived!” a focused Ward added.
The FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from Camps Drift, Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon, Durban from 18-20 February 2016.