The 2016 Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon presented by Parklane Superspar on Sunday, 27 November represents a golden chance for paddlers to clear any lingering early season cobwebs while the sport’s elite will go head-to-head for this year’s KZN K1 River Marathon Championships crown.
With next year’s FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon now just twelve weeks away, racing snakes and social sloggers alike are set to turn to Sunday’s 26km clash from Albert Fall Dam to Thornvale Farm to clear any last remaining river rust as they continue their journey towards February’s iconic Pietermaritzburg to Durban encounter.
The front of the men’s race will be another richly competitive affair as some of the country’s, and even the world’s, best marathon competitors square off at the sharp end of the field.
Double defending champion, Euro Steel’s Andy Birkett will undoubtedly be eager to make it three from three and continue the trend that has seen his success at the Ozzie Gladwin pave the way for victory in the FNB Dusi the following year.
Birkett’s 2014 Dusi winning team mate, Euro Steel/Red Bull’s Sbonelo Khwela will however himself be aiming to finish aloft the podium this weekend as he looks to build on from his win at the recent Umpetha Challenge.
The Ozzie Gladwin’s most successful paddler, ten-time winner Len Jenkins Jnr. was another notable name to surface in the closing stages of the entry process and having spent some time away from the sport since this year’s Dusi, may well add a fascinating element to Sunday’s racing.
Add to that the likes of Build it/Williams Hunt’s Thulani Mbanjwa, Euro Steel’s Banetse Nkhoesa and Computershare Change a Life Academy’s in-form Lucas Mthalane at the tussle for a top five finish is set to be a hard-fought affair.
The women’s clash will too be a mouth-watering contest as the paddling fraternity get their first look at Euro Steel/Gara Racing Paddles’ Abby Solms going head-to-head with 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley on local KZN waters.
As Hartley continues her exploration into marathon paddling and Solms having dominated South African paddling circles in recent years, the match-up is an intriguing one ahead of next year’s Dusi.
Recent rains have been a welcome sight for all however their influence on dam water levels has been negligible and the drought’s grip continues to leave paddlers scratching for precious opportunities to hone their river marathon skills.
As such, Sunday’s clash presents many ‘weekend warriors’ with a rare opportunity to continue their clocking up of early season miles while the race’s status as a front row seeding race for next year’s Dusi will add some extra spice to the mix for the field’s elite competitors.
The 2016 Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon takes place from Albert Falls Dam to Thornvale Farm on Sunday 27 November.