The arrival of a Len Jenkins Jnr.’s name on the entry list for the 2016 Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon presented by Parklane Superspar has caused many of the province’s top elite paddlers to sit up and take notice ahead of Sunday’s 26km clash from Albert Falls Dam to Thornvale Farm.
Despite suggesting he is preparing for a social outing on Sunday and that the event does not form part of any 2017 FNB Dusi plans, the paddling prodigy and most successful Ozzie Gladwin competitor’s remarkable ability and fierce competitiveness may well have a few at the sharp end of the field reconsidering their tactics for the 26km encounter.
“Yip, I’ve entered for Ozzie this weekend, but just to have some fun,” says Jenkins reservedly. “Dusi is definitely not on the cards for me, not at this stage anyway.”
“I don’t even know if I have a boat for Sunday,” he chuckles. “I’ll have to see what I have left, if anything, on the racks!”
Upon finishing third at last year’s Hansa Fish in October and fifth in February’s 2016 FNB Dusi – both with ADreach/Euro Steel paddling partner, Siseko Ntondini – 35 year-old Jenkins again disappeared from paddling circles and has not been seen on a race start line in the last ten months.
With life having again settled down for the enigma of the South African canoeing fraternity, Jenkins is looking forward to adding this weekend’s race to his slow and steady return to the sport he loves.
“Since Dusi I’ve been having some fun on my fishing ski.
“I recently started paddling again – just once a week or so – to try get fit and lose some weight.”
Those who know the ten time Ozzie Gladwin winner and his unrivalled natural talent will however be curious to note that Jenkins does admit to having spent some time training on a stretch of river currently being used for water transfers from Springrove Dam to Midmar Dam.
“I’ve been paddling a section of the Lion’s River just above where it feeds into the uMngeni River once or twice and that has been fun a fun way of getting back onto the river again and also enjoying some clean water.
“Hopefully muscle memory can kick in for me on Sunday and things can go well for me on the day. If so, then perhaps some of my old competitive spirit will kick in and take over and who knows, maybe I can even be in A batch by the end of it.”
With the race doubling as the 2016 KZN K1 River Marathon Championships and the likes of Umpetha Challenge winner, Sbonelo Khwela (Euro Steel/Red Bull) and double defending Ozzie Gladwin champion, Andy Birkett (Euro Steel) having also confirmed their participation, a mouth-watering encounter is fast developing.
The 2016 Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon takes place from Albert Falls Dam to Thornvale Farm on Sunday 27 November.