Despite being the inspiration behind the creation of the upcoming film Beyond the River, Gauteng-based paddler Siseko Ntondini has not let his ‘movie fame’ overtake him as he confidently builds up to this month’s FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon.
Ntondini officially arrived on the FNB Dusi stage in 2014 when he and partner Piers Cruickshanks raced to an impressive seventh in the 2014 Dusi, placing third in the Under-23 age category behind race winner Lance Kime and Dusi hero Andy Birkett to go along with his 11th place K1.
The Euro Steel star’s rise through the elite paddling ranks has been a steady one and despite a disappointing 21st place finish in the 2015 K1 year, his 2016 fifth place overall with the experienced Len Jenkins Jnr was his finest Dusi performance to date.
His 2017 FNB Dusi build-up has been a bit up and down with some good results, a fifth at the challenging Umpetha Challenge, followed by a sixth at the competitive Ozzie Gladwin Canoe Marathon and most recently a 10th in the Campbell’s Farm to Dusi Bridge race.
‘I have been quite happy with how my preparation has been,’ Ntondini said. ‘I have been working really hard on my running because it has always been one of my weakest aspects. If I can finish inside the top 10, then I will be really happy and a top five would be a huge bonus as the field this year is going to be incredibly tough!’
Ntondini has grown into one of the stand-out paddlers of the Soweto Canoeing and Recreation Club (SCARC) and will make the trip down the escarpment with the expectation that he can provide his club with a solid result.
‘I have been training hard with the SCARC guys and I am feeling ready for the race next week. We will be making the trip down to KZN on the 13th of February, so we will have a bit of time in Pietermaritzburg before the race starts.
‘I have been spending quite a lot of time down in KZN racing over the last few months, so I’m confident that I have learnt the river again and I am looking forward to the challenge that the Dusi is going to present,’ he added.
Ntondini’s best results at the FNB Dusi have come in a K2 with two top 10 finishes in the last two K2 years, 2014 and 2016. Surprisingly though, he finds paddling in a K2 more difficult.
‘I prefer to paddle in a K1 because you don’t have anyone else to worry about or concentrate on. You are the one that controls your own race. I really enjoy paddling in a K1 and I am running well now after all my training so I am hoping that helps me next week,’ he commented.
Very few people can say that a movie has been based on their life story. For Ntondini the story that Beyond the River portrays might not necessarily be a carbon-copy of his upbringing, but he feels that the themes represented in the film are very relevant to what he experienced.
‘This movie has not only changed my life, but has shown people the story of what it is like to grow up in a township wanting to get involved in a sport such as canoeing.
‘One of the most important lessons the movie portrays is the interaction of two people from such different backgrounds and how you can meet someone and make a partnership work.’
Picture of Ntondini courtesy of Anthony Grote/Gameplan Media