Defending champs Birkett and Mackenzie extend their Dusi reigns

A stage with many unknowns couldn’t curtail the respective title charges of K1 defending champions Andy Birkett and Christie Mackenzie, who powered to the men’s and women’s Dusi Canoe Marathon titles on Saturday.

Both started the stage with comfortable leads on Saturday morning and had contrasting days as Birkett meticulously negotiated his way home, while Mackenzie’s two swims were blemishes on an otherwise dominant performance in the women’s race.

Following another flawless day in the boat, Euro Steel’s Birkett said that he was made to work throughout the day due to the high water levels as he raced to his thirteenth win and tenth title in a row.

“Today felt like a new river for all of us,” Birkett said. “We were just paddling scared, trying to avoid the big rapids.

“I didn’t recognise many of the rapids and was not taking the fastest line and skirting everything on the sides … you could feel the power of the water.”

For Birkett, the adaptation of the race organisers and the fluidity of the event always makes it exciting.

“The race is not the same from one year to the next, and that’s what makes Dusi special and you have to adapt to the variables.”

Team MyLife’s Msawenkosi Mtolo put in a surge on the final day to post the fastest time of the day to wrap up second overall. With a big deficit to make on the final stage from Inanda Dam to Blue Lagoon, he knew it was going to be a tough ask to beat Birkett, but he is happy with efforts and is already looking forward to the next K1 event in 2025.

“I started on the dam and felt really strong, but I knew that it wasn’t going to be easy to catch Andy,” Mtolo said.

“I tried to push as hard as I could to catch him but I know racing Andy is hard but I tried.”

Euro Steel’s Dave Evans put in another strong performance on the final stage to finish in third place overall.

The women’s final stage started with Mackenzie leading by over 25 minutes and despite a day of mixed fortunes on Saturday, the two-time K1 champion continued her dominance to maintain a big lead into the finish.

Mackenzie echoed Birkett in speaking about the variables and the excitement the 2023 race provided.

“It was very different paddling on the river this year,” Euro Steel’s Mackenzie said.

“A lot has changed and that has brought a number of new challenges, which were exciting to face because I was feeling very strong.

“It was a big challenge for me in big water because that usually isn’t my forte, but I felt like I handled it as best as I could and I’m very pleased with the result.”

Mackenzie’s third consecutive women’s K1 crown puts her amongst Dusi royalty with Marlene Lowenstein and Abby Ulansky as the third woman to win three K1 titles consecutively.

Finishing in second overall in the women’s race was Bridgitte Hartley who produced another solid display. Despite the threat of retiring from competitive paddling, this year’s Dusi might have convinced Olympic medallist Hartley to continue.

“I just keep on thinking that I’m getting older and this year I’m a veteran, and I kept asking myself why I am still doing this!” she said.

“I guess I do still love it, and coaching the Maritzburg College team keeps me on my toes and I love seeing them improve.

“K2 is always fun and so you will probably see me on the start line next year.”

Jordan Peek was solid again on the final day of the race to round out the women’s podium.

The under 23 men’s race was won by third-placed Dave Evans while Scott Little, who had a storming final day to take over fourth overall, finished second with Hamish Mackenzie ended in third.

The junior men’s race was an exciting showdown, but ultimately it was Smilo Mthethwa who claimed the overall victory ahead of Asibabale Mpambani by four seconds, while Greg Palframan finished in third.

Shannon Parker-Dennison won the under 23 women’s race, while Emma Hatfield won the junior women’s race ahead of Rachel van Deventer.

Visiting Danish paddler Susan Lutzner won the mixed doubles title with local ace Alex Masina.

Notably, Glen Hilliar and Ric Whitton completed their 40th Dusi Canoe Marathon’s to become just the eighteenth and nineteenth paddlers to reach that milestone.

2023 Dusi Canoe Marathon
(Stage Three – Msinsi Resort at Inanda Dam to Blue Lagoon, Durban)
Times: Total (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3)

Overall Men
1 Andy Birkett 7.15.42 (1.53.59, 2.57.53, 2.23.48)
2 Msawenkosi Mtolo 7.21.43 (1.55.03, 3.04.27, 2.22.11)
3 David Evans 7.24.29 (1.58.45, 3.02.14, 2.23.29)
4 Scott Little 7.32.31 (2.01.01, 3.06.41, 2.24.49)
5 Banetse Nkhoesa 7.34.55 (1.58.48, 3.04.36, 2.31.31)
6 Thulani Mbanjwa 7.38.17 (2.01.34, 3.11.05, 2.25.37)
7 Hamish Mackenzie 7.41.04 (2.07.21, 3.09.23, 2.24.20)
8 Nqobile Makhanya 7.41.05 (2.05.15, 3.11.29, 2.24.19)
9 Bongani Ntinga 7.46.32 (2.08.22, 3.11.48, 2.26.21)
10 Thabani Msia 7.47.48 (2.11.39, 3.08.36, 2.27.32)

Overall Women
1 Christie Mackenzie 8.19.35 (2.12.57, 3.22.01, 2.44.36)
2 Bridgitte Hartley 8.47.27 (2.26.47, 3.35.07, 2.45.31)
3 Jordan Peek 8.56.48 (2.27.12, 3.42.44, 2.46.51)
4 Nix Birkett 9.17.10 (2.39.07, 3.49.46, 2.48.17)
5 Hilary Bruss 9.21.08 (2.33.52, 3.49.06, 2.58.09)
6 Shannon Parker-Dennison 9.33.50 (2.41.16, 3.55.40, 2.56.53)
7 Emma Hatfield 9.47.13 (2.41.18, 4.03.04, 3.02.50)
8 Rachel Van Deventer 9.48.01 (2.43.47, 4.00.46, 3.03.26)

U23 Men
1 David Evans 7.24.29 (1.58.45, 3.02.14, 2.23.29)
2 Scott Little 7.32.31 (2.01.01, 3.06.41, 2.24.49)
3 Hamish Mackenzie 7.41.04 (2.07.21, 3.09.23, 2.24.20)
4 Jeremy Maher 7.49.29 (2.05.13, 3.15.01, 2.29.13)
5 Matthew Fenn 7.56.17 (2.03.38, 3.24.32, 2.28.07)
6 Ross Leslie 7.59.40 (2.13.29, 3.12.23, 2.33.48)
7 Sandile Mtolo 8.02.30 (1.57.17, 3.23.00, 2.42.12)
8 Lindokuhle Maphumulo 8.11.04 (2.14.50, 3.24.02, 2.32.12)
9 Ross Palframan 8.15.40 (2.16.50, 3.25.07, 2.33.42)
10 Murray Behn 8.21.32 (2.15.32, 3.26.38, 2.39.21)

U23 Women
1 Shannon Parker-Dennison 9.33.50 (2.41.16, 3.55.40, 2.56.53)
2 Tayla Isaac 12.50.34 (3.22.51, 5.23.13, 4.04.30)

U18 Boys
1 Smilo Mthethwa 8.37.01 (2.14.38, 3.32.00, 2.50.21)
2 Asibabale Mpambani 8.37.05 (2.16.50, 3.29.49, 2.50.25)
3 Greg Palframan 8.46.16 (2.20.55, 3.39.07, 2.46.13)
4 Robert Butcher 8.51.38 (2.25.48, 3.37.25, 2.48.24)
5 Sabelo Nyembe 8.59.57 (2.27.16, 3.49.21, 2.43.18)
6 Sikhanyisele Dekeda 9.05.41 (2.29.38, 3.52.21, 2.43.41)
7 Lucien Baldry 9.36.47 (2.35.51, 4.04.05, 2.56.50)
8 Jack Owen Odell 9.46.22 (2.43.23, 4.05.05, 2.57.52)
9 Stuart Neilson 9.47.39 (2.41.24, 3.57.35, 3.08.39)
10 Christopher Adam 9.51.46 (2.46.15, 4.06.40, 2.58.50)

U18 Girls
1 Emma Hatfield 9.47.13 (2.41.18, 4.03.04, 3.02.50)
2 Rachel Van Deventer 9.48.01 (2.43.47, 4.00.46, 3.03.26)
3 Lesedi Bobo 13.02.11 (3.31.05, 5.19.39, 4.11.27)

Andy Birkett completed a flawless race on a full river to claim a thirteenth 2023 Dusi Canoe Marathon title on Saturday.  Anthony Grote/
Gameplan Media

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