Andy Birkett set a new record by winning the MyLife Dusi Canoe Marathon, extending his number of consecutive wins to eight as he wrapped up his 11th title in style.
In the women’s race Christie Mackenzie, who started the final 36km stage into Durban with an eight-minute lead, made life difficult for her title defence by capsizing in the full river four times, giving second placed Jordan Peek a real chance of a major upset. But she was able to recover each time.
Birkett did not make a mistake over the three days and 120 kilometres as he posted a 21-minute victory margin over Hank McGregor, with Under-23 ace Dave Evans finishing third.
Birkett was forced to race his own race and isolate himself from any challenges being mounted behind him.
‘You just try and get into a rhythm, where you are just tripping and finding where the fast water is flowing and limit your mistakes,’ he said. ‘You think about the next rapid and not much further past that.
‘I felt that if I was going to point where I was feeling pretty tired then it must be a decent pace. So I tried not to tap off too much because the guys can then catch you. If I made a mistake I could easily have lost that twenty minute lead.
‘I really enjoyed the last three days of racing,’ he added, saying that the records he had set we of ns significance to him.
‘I was thinking about this a lot as I was racing in today,’ he explained. ‘When Graeme Pope-Ellis set these records he didn’t have the technology that we have now with our boats and paddles. It is a lot easier for us nowadays, so I can’t even think of records,’ said the Euro Steel racer.
His team mate McGregor stormed home to his eighteenth gold medal in 21 Dusis to wrap up the silver, with a flawless stage on the uMngeni River flowing at a healthy 25 cumec level.
Evans picked off the MyLife team mates Khumbulani Nzimande and Msawenkosi Mtolo to snatch the last space on the podium, with Nzimande pipping Mtolo to fourth in a ferocious end-sprint.
While he was disappointed to slip down the leaderboard, Mtolo helped anchor the Dusi Bridge club to the prestigious race club award for the best four finishes.
After her win Mackenzie said: ‘It was just a super-pressured last day, but those four swims and the headwind made the racing really honest.’
‘Luckily I managed to keep a slight lead over Jordan Peek by the time we reached the Pumphouse Weirs, which I portaged around to stay safe.
‘Once we were past that point and I knew it was basically flat and honest work into the finish I was comfortable I could finish it.
‘Running-wise and paddling-wise I have never been stronger, but in all it took seven swims, which is something that I am really going to have to work on.
‘I am really happy that all my training has paid off and I am thrilled with the result, regardless,” she said, adding that in the month that she has been working with coach Andrew Booyens she has improved in all facets of her performance.
Peek, who was consistent throughout all three days of racing, wrapped up second, Bridgitte Hartley was third, while the evergreen Jenna Ward held off the impressive junior Saskia Hockly for fourth.
Courtesy: Gameplan Media