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Hillary’s injury handicap

Hillary Pitchford, top contender for The Unlimited Dusi women’s title, has been sidelined by a broken wrist following a freak accident while training for the three-day classic that starts at Camps Drift on 16 February.

Pitchford was carrying her K2 canoe with partner Tamika Haw on a trail run when her ankle clipped a rock, causing her to fall heavily, breaking her fall with her hand and in the process fracturing bones in her wrist.

A frustrated Pitchford, who has the hand in a cast from elbow to fingers, says there is an outside chance that she might still be able to take part in the race, as her doctor hinted that the cast could come off the day before the race.

Pitchford became the toast of the paddling community last year when she won the female section of the brand new International Canoe Federation World Series after a string of consistent performances in major river marathons around the world.

“It’s so frustrating!” said Pitchford, who was out in support of her boyfriend Deon Bruss as a second on the weekend. “The partnership with Tamika (Haw) was going so well that I was really excited about our Dusi. We just seemed to click. It was one of the best partnerships I’ve ever paddled in, so the break just makes it doubly frustrating!”

The gutsy Pitchford is refusing to write off her Dusi, even though she knows that she will risk aggravating the injury by racing so soon after it comes out of the cast. “We will just have to wait and see,” says Pitchford with a typical twinkle in her eye.

Pitchford paddled with defending champ Robyn Kime during the early part of the season, until Kime confirmed she had arranged to paddle with Dusi Queen Abbey Ulansky, who was flown back to South Africa from her new home in Canada by the new pro team Team Best 4 Kayak Centre to defend her K2 title with Kime.

With the Howick based Adie twins Abby and Alex set to challenge strongly for the title, the new pairing of Pitchford and Haw was set to add even further spice to the race for the women’s title.

The Unlimited Dusi canoe marathon from Camps Drift, Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon, Durban takes place on 16-18 February 2012.