Following a rollercoaster two months after the unfortunate stabbing of up and coming paddling star Banetse Nkhoesa at his Shongweni home, he and Sbonelo Khwela have nailed down their intentions of taking on the 2016 FNB Dusi together.
The mid-December stabbing has had a significant effect on Nkhoesa who is still in the process of regaining full use of his lung after it was punctured during the assault.
Despite the road to recovery being a long and intense one, Nkhoesa will be back in the boat with his Euro Steel partner and 2014 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon winner Khwela as the pair look to pick up the pieces of their Dusi preparation.
‘Our goals have changed dramatically recently and we have changed our mind sets towards the Dusi this year,’ a relaxed Nkhoesa said at the Prime Human Performance Institute where he has spent much of his recovery. ‘We are now in a position that winning is probably not an option but we have said that if we are given an opportunity, we will take it!’
With a chance to win his first Dusi Canoe Marathon title all but gone, Nkhoesa’s three-day journey from Pietermaritzburg to Durban with Khwela will take on a new light.
‘We have taken the pressure off ourselves and we just want to see how well we can do!’
For Khwela, it has been an equally tough period as he has found himself partnerless on not one but two occasions after his interim partner Nhlanhla Cele badly injured his shoulder in Johannesburg during the Euro Steel Highveld croc, leaving the defending K2 champion in limbo.
‘It is great to have Banetse back even though he is still recovering from the stab wound and everything has changed for us!’ Khwela mentioned. ‘I am just glad that he is feeling good and ready to paddle. We are now just hoping to have as much fun as we can!’
Nkhoesa has been helped in principle by Dr. Kevin Subban at the Prime Human Performance Centre courtesy of his involvement in the KZN Department of Sport and Recreation backed Elite Athlete Development Programme and, with Subban’s wealth of experience, Khwela knows his paddling partner is in good hands. ‘Having a person like Dr. Subban helping Banetse is incredible for him and he has helped him out so much since his incident which we are very grateful for!
‘I am just really happy that I am able to get back into a boat with him.
‘We will just take the race day by day until the finish,’ a circumspect Khwela explained.
Despite being back in a boat with Nkhoesa, Khwela is still worried about a few things as the pair haven’t been able to practice their portaging together.
‘I am just worried about our running; it is something that we haven’t been able to do so the portaging is going to be difficult.
‘All of the other crews are starting to taper off with the Dusi under a month away but we are in the complete opposite position at the moment!’ Khwela chuckled.
The FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from Camps Drift, Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon, Durban from 18-20.
Road to Rio 2016’s Mark Etheridge chatted to Durban medical practitioner Dr Kevin Subban, who has previously travelled with Team South Africa to various multi-code events, on his assessment of Nkhoesa’s condition.
‘I saw Banetsi on 15 January after I had got back to work. He was stabbed on the left side of his chest in the back just under the scapula (shoulder blade)in mid-December.
‘As you are aware the heart is on the left side and anything deep would have punctured his heart which is often fatal. He had sustained a puncture of the left lung which required a chest drain to be inserted to re-inflate it. In addition, he had blood in the bottle of the drain (according to Banetsi) which suggests that he had significant bleeding (called a haemo-pneumothorax).
‘This would obviously compromise his lung function. On my assessment he had pain in his left chest mainly over the initial stab wound and over the drain site and his rowing motion was compromised due to pain (he was favouring his left side and was over-working his right side).
‘I had assessed his lung function on the day and it was diminished by about 450mls (according to norms for his age, height, weight, race). I’m repeating his lung function on Friday following his rehabilitation programme which included intensive physiotherapy (to improve function of his muscles that were injured following injury), training at altitude to improve lung function, analgesia to help with the pain and psychology to help with the “Post Traumatic Stress”.
‘However despite all these negative aspects he always remained positive and focused that he would compete at the Dusi (even if he had to paddle with another partner). Sbonelo had tried another partner, Cele, who had injured his shoulder at the race in Johannesburg and he is back with Banetsi and happy with this decision.
‘I’m still confident that the pair will do well and we at Prime are doing everything possible to make this year’s Dusi a memorable one for these two.
Picture of Nkhoesa and Khwela courtesy of Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media