A new wave of talented junior paddlers is set to lay siege to this year’s The Unlimited Dusi Canoe Marathon, snapping at the heels of the strong class of 2012 that has graduated from the Under-18 ranks, and now plying their trade with the elite racers.
Having seen the likes of Maritzburg College ‘Awesome Foursome’ Don Wewege, Murray Starr, James Speed and Murray Haw as well as Epworth old girl Brittany Petersen all progress through the ranks and into the Under-23 age group at the end of last year, it is now the turn of a new generation of young stars to take to the water and make the highly sought-after junior podium positions their own.
Another strong Maritzburg College showing is expected and with the inland institution celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2013 a strong podium presence with undoubtedly be a major focus for the likes of the Wilson brothers, Travis and Tyler, Damon Stamp, Andrew Woodgate and Bryan Le Roux.
However, lone rangers Calvin McKie (Clifton College) and Patrick Dillon (Michaelhouse), together with Lembethe Canoe Club’s Nqobile Makhanya and the Computershare Change a Life duo of Emmanuel Kirk and Mthobisi Cele, will be out to spoil the red, black and white party of their College competitors as they look to earn a podium finish of their own.
Alan Houston looks to be the one to watch in the Under-16 boys category but, as many young paddlers will know, anything can happen on race day particularly on the tricky uMsundusi and uMngeni Rivers.
In the Under-18 girls section once again it looks set to be an Epworth showdown as the likes of Bianca Haw and Jordan Peek (Team Best 4 Kayak Centre) go head to head throughout the three-day journey from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban.
Peek has been in remarkable form over the past year however Haw is a phenomenal young athlete with a vast endurance sports background. Despite only being Under-16 in 2011, the last K1 Dusi year, Haw went on to be the first Under-18 girls across the line by close on twelve minutes before she and Peek joined forces in 2012 to claim the Under-18 girls title in a K2.
Last year’s winning partnership will however come up against each other once more in 2013 and the battle between the two is one many will have a close eye on throughout the three days.
Haw and Peek will be chased hard by Camilla Pennefather and Charlotte Lovemore however this pair are expected to be battling it out for the final step on the junior girls’ podium come the finish line on Saturday.
All in all though some tough competition throughout the junior age groups once again shows the depth of river paddling talent there is amongst KZN schools and promises to serve up some interesting encounters throughout this year’s race.