Victory at the recent Umpetha Challenge has given 2014 Dusi co-winner Sbonelo Khwela and his new K2 partner Banetse Nkhoesa vital confidence ahead of their next assignment in their FNB Dusi build-up – the Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon presented by Parklane Superspar which takes place on Sunday, 29 November.
The event – one of biggest and most prestigious one day canoeing events in the country – sees participants tackle four kilometers of flat water paddling across Albert Falls Dam and a short one kilometer portage around the dam wall before enjoying a memorable trip down the upper Mngeni River to Thornvale Farm.
Having enjoyed a ding-dong battle on the first stretch of the Dusi route this past Sunday with five time Dusi winner Andy Birkett (Euro Steel) and Jason Graham as well as ADreach’s Len Jenkins and Siseko Ntondini, Khwela and Nkhoesa are looking forward to continuing their partnership at this year’s Ozzie Gladwin.
“We had hoped to do Sunday’s (Land Rover Durban Alan Gardiner Memorial) Ibis Point to Dip Tank race to try build up some rhythm in the river but we’ve decided we won’t paddle this weekend and so our focus is now definitely on Ozzie Gladwin!” explained Khwela.
“Umpetha Challenge was a good race for us; everything went according to plan and it was very good for our confidence as a pair,” added the Euro Steel/Red Bull star.
Despite the change in scenery as well as the portage around Albert Falls Dam wall being a lot earlier in the race than their Umpetha Challenge defining effort up the Campbell’s Farm portage to Bishopstowe Hall, Khwela says his and Nkhoesa’s tactics will are unlikely to change come Ozzie Gladwin.
“It doesn’t matter which stretch of river we’re paddling on, whether it’s the Msundusi or the upper Mngeni,” said Khwela.
“Banetse (Nkhoesa) and I will still look to just stay with the bunch on the dam and then try open up a gap on the portage if we can.
“If we can’t then we’ll just have to hang in there on the river and wait for the other guys to make a mistake!”
Despite having combined so successfully and continuing to enjoy a healthy relationship with Birkett, Khwela believes the bond he and fellow Shongweni valley resident Nkhoesa (Euro Steel/Computershare Change a Life) enjoy off the water will help their pursuit of winning the 2016 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon.
“Banetse and I are very good friends off the water and that is definitely helping us a lot,” confirmed Khwela.
“We train together every day and understanding each other and getting along well is one of the biggest things (for a K2 combo),” he added.
The 2015 Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon gets underway at 09h00 on Sunday, 29 November at Albert Falls Dam and finishes 26km later at Thornvale Farm. More info can be found at www.ozziegladwin.co.za