Pietermaritzburg – The 2024 canoeing year kicks off with a vengeance on Sunday with some big names lining up for the Kindo Covers Ozzie Gladwin race, one of the province’s oldest one-day events and the start of the so-called “Dusi Season”.
Included in the field for Sunday’s race from Albert Falls Dam to Sunnyside Farm on the Upper Umgeni will be Olympic medalist Brigitte Hartley and multiple World Champion Hank McGregor.
While entries only officially close on Saturday evening, and KZN’s traditional last-minute-dot-com mentality means there is certain to be a burst of late entries on Saturday, the pair of world beaters are currently the headline entrants.
Olympic canoeing sprint medallist Hartley has retired from international competition, but her recent win in the KZN Mixed Doubles Champs last month proves she is still very competitive.
Hartley will be paddling with Hillary Bruss and are currently the boat to beat in the women’s category.
Although McGregor is a just few days away from his 46th birthday, just over a month ago he finished second in the Surfski World Champs and there is no doubt he is still one of South Africa’s top paddlers.
He is cutting back on his top-level racing schedule and enjoying spending more time paddling with his wife Pippa. They have teamed up once-again for the Ozzie Gladwin this weekend and will be a good bet for a top-ten finish overall and clear favourityes for the mixed doubles title.
A strong contingent of upcountry paddlers has made the trip to KZN with a particularly big entry from the Soweto Canoe Club. Their members are likely to be pack into the top positions near the front of the race, probably led by Siseko Ntondini and Benjamin Mntonintshi, who recently finished as runners up in the competitive Vaal River Canoe Marathon.
The action starts at 8am at the Bon Accord Resort on the banks of the Albert Falls Dam. Paddlers will complete a lap on the flat waters of the dam before a short portage and then a paddle down the gentle rapids of the Upper Umgeni to Sunnyside Farm.