The landscape of the Non-Stop Dusi changed on Friday as both K1 records fell and the relatively unknown Nhlanhla Cele claimed a hard-fought victory with veteran Thulani Mbanjwa overall however the day belonged to Laura O’Donoghue who added a new women’s K1 Non-Stop record to her maiden Dusi title she claimed two weeks ago.
Build it/Williams Hunt’s Mbanjwa won the 2014 Vaal in Gauteng but the last time he stood on the top step of the podium in an event in his home province was back in 2011 when he and Sbonelo Khwela won the ‘Dusi-in-a-day’.
Despite his lack of local wins Mbanjwa remained hugely positive throughout his dry spell before enjoying one of his best Dusi build-up campaign ahead of February’s three day tussle where he finished fourth.
“It is so sweet to win a big race again!” said Mbanjwa.
“I have always been there and there abouts without being able to just get over the line and win but I worked so hard before Dusi and felt really fit a week before Non-Stop so I gave Nhlanhla a call and I’m so glad I did!
“Nhlanhla was so strong the whole way and I’m so happy for him too, he really deserves this result!” he added.
The result was a career highlight for 27 year-old Cele whose previously best performance was a Non-Stop third place with his brother Richard back in 2011 however his first Non-Stop win came in a dominant display as they led from start to finish.
Some hair-raising moments and the expected phases of physical and mental fatigue along the way saw a cat and mouse affair unfold behind them as Euro Steel/Red Bull’s Khwela and Euro Steel’s Lance Kime closed the gap and dropped off the pace throughout.
After Kime ‘hit the wall’ halfway across Inanda Dam it was a two horse race and Khwela ran the Burma Road portage like a man possessed, narrowing the gap to just half am minute in the dying stages.
In the end it was Mbanjwa and Cele who were just too strong for Khwela’s charging K1 as the floated into Blue Lagoon in Durban after 7:44.44.
“Wow that was close!” laughed Khwela after giving it his all on the Burma Road portage which saw the lead reduced to just 35 seconds.
“Then we ran out of water just above Mango Rapid and I thought maybe I had a chance to catch the double in front but Thulani and Nhlanhla went really well by the time they got onto the deeper water again.
“It was a great race though and I’m very happy with how it went for me for my first time doing Non-Stop in a K1,” he added.
Kime claimed the final step on the podium in his final outing before he jets off to spend some time working and traveling abroad before 2015 Dusi gold medalists Mhlonishwa Hlongwane and Banesti Nkhoesa edged out the pair of Nhlanhla Cele’s brother and Change a Life team mate Richard and Natal Canoe Club Development programme product Mfaniseni Nyawose for fourth.
“I’m really happy to end on this note!” said Kime. “I enjoyed the first half of the race but my legs said no more on the Dam Hill portage.”
“After I fell off the pace a bit I thought I would be able to paddle around instead of going over Burma but my seconds beckoned me over and I ended up getting the whole Non-Stop experience.”
With a maiden Dusi title under her belt after her resounding effort at the three day clash two weeks ago, O’Donoghue returned to absolutely annihilate the previous women’s K1 record set by Robyn Kime in 2012 by well over ten minutes on Friday.
“It was a pretty flawless day out there,” said a very tired yet hugely satisfied O’Donoghue afterwards. “I felt strong thoughout the day and I enjoyed it out there although from halfway I was on my own which was quite eerie!
“I was always going to go around Burma today and it all went well, I am just really happy to be home!” she added.
First placed mixed doubles crew Ben Bradford and Natasha Bulbring dug deep in an attempt to finish inside the race’s top 10 however the pair fell just short after they wrapped their boat at Tops Needle but still ended as the first mixed doubles crew.
More information can be found at www.nonstopdusi.co.zaSUMMARY OF RESULTS
NON-STOP DUSI CANOE MARATHON
1.Thulani Mbanjwa/Nhlanhla Cele 7:44.44
2.Sbonelo Khwela 7:48.08
3.Lance Kime 8:04.51
1.Laura O’Donoghue 9:24.55
1.Ben Bradford/Natasha Bulbring 10:30.26
Images: Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media