A maiden appearance at the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon as a senior competitor hangs in the balance for former Under-23 age group standout Jenna Ward ahead of this year’s edition of the iconic Pietermaritzburg to Durban paddling event which takes place from 16-18 February.
The two-time ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships bronze medallist’s has demonstrated some steady progress during her six previous Dusi outings, having notched up a 13th, 7th and 3rd place in her K1 efforts in 2011, 2013 and 2015 while also securing a 7th, 6th and 4th in a K2 in 2012, 2014 and 2016 respectively.
Her recent all-round paddling growth and a stellar 2016 season had many expecting the Euro Steel athlete to be a strong podium contender come the 2017 FNB Dusi however some time off and a recent re-acquaintance with her surfski has meant Ward has spent precious little time preparing for this year’s showdown.
“Its touch and go as to whether or not I’ll do Dusi this year,” says Euro Steel’s Ward.
“I haven’t done any of the pre-Dusi races so far and I definitely haven’t done the running training that I should have if I wanted to be competitive.”
The natural competitor in Ward also leaves her hesitant to commit to a half-hearted performance, especially after leaving for a two week holiday in Thailand shortly after completing the 2016 Cape Point Challenge surfski race in Cape Town.
The young star’s stepping up from the Under-23 division into the senior ranks in 2017 also simulates another of her recent life developments after the Mount Edgecombe resident completed her teaching qualification at the end of 2016 and now steps into the working world come the start of the new school year.
““I don’t want to go and do Dusi and not do well!
“Another factor I have to consider when making my decision on whether to do Dusi or not is that from this year I will be teaching full time at Virginia Prep, which I’m very excited about and can’t wait to give my all.
“While the school is very understanding when it comes to my paddling, to ask for two days leave so soon after starting a new job is something I’ll have to mull over.”
Despite her challenges, Ward however also expects FOMO – the fear of missing out – to play a telling role in her decision making the closer she gets to the start of the three day race.
“The closer we get to it then I will probably not want to miss out!
“Who knows, I’ll probably just end up doing it,” she giggles.
“If do, it will be from just my normal training base though; nothing out of the ordinary or Dusi specific.”
Having completed the renowned event six times previously, Ward is confident her knowledge of the river and experience gathered from her previous outings will be enough to get her through, even if a little slower than usual.
“I’m pretty certain I’ll know where to go, what lines to take on the river, etc.
“It would be the running that would be my major challenge though!
“Who knows though, we’ll just have to see.”