Khwela & Mbanjwa kick-start their Dusi prep

A tough first hit-out on the Mngeni River for Sbonelo Khwela and Thulani Mbajnwa over the weekend spelt the start of their preparation for the 2020 Dusi Canoe Marathon from 27-29 February.

In low river conditions the pair finished second to the K1 of young Khumbulani Nzimande for the Ibis Point to Mbeje’s Store race, an outing that often proves to be a crucial pre-Dusi acid test as combinations strive to find their feet.

Khwela and Mbanjwa paddled the recent Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon so they are comfortable in a boat together; however this past weekend’s race gave them a good work-out on the portages.

“The race was great training for Dusi that’s for sure!” Khwela said. “We paced ourselves well in the paddling sections and ran well considering it was the first time that we had run together.

“It was a great training race for us and we feel that we are in a good place right now even though we have a long way to go until the Dusi!”

With over three months to go until the iconic race from Pietermaritzburg and Durban the pair isn’t jumping into their training full on just yet and understand the importance of taking their preparation in stages.

“I think that a lot of rest is very important in the lead up to the Dusi, especially in a K2 year.

“We are also going to stay away from training in the K2 quite a lot and focus on K1 training because you don’t want to over-train, that is very important.

“With so much time between now and the Dusi we are going to be careful about how we go about our training and with no races on the river until 2020 we will need to be clever.

“We might go up and paddle the Fast Drak but we haven’t discussed that properly.”

Khwela and Mbanjwa have both been on the top step of the Dusi podium in years past, albeit with different partners. With the two pairing up for the 2020 Dusi the pressure could be on them to claim the overall title, however Khwela doesn’t believe there is any added pressure on them.

“We are going to go out there and give it our all and if we win then that is a massive bonus!” the Euro Steel/Red Bull star mentioned.

“Our main aim is to paddle the best race that we can possibly paddle and be proud of our effort.”

Khwela has become a shining light for paddling in KwaZulu-Natal and having teamed up with a fellow Martin Dreyer Change a Life Academy ambassador Mbanjwa the pair can make history at the 2020 Dusi Canoe Marathon.

For Khwela, seeing other paddlers succeed and grow is a massive part of why he paddles.

“I am more than happy to help out the younger paddlers and try and teach them everything that I know because I want them to do well and be the best paddlers that they can be.

“Does this make me feel any more pressure? No, definitely not and I hope that they can beat me one day, just not today!” he laughed.

The 2020 Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place for 27 to 29 February 2020.