Crowds brave heat to cheer on Dusi paddlers

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nm dusi 460 . Paddlers Stuart Dixon and Michael Miskin collide with Keith and Erin Ellerker (out of shot) at Mission Rapids during day one of the Dusi Canoe Marathon, yesterday. The rapids were the scene of numerous tumbles as paddlers navigated the rough water. Picture: Terry Haywood

Kevin Lancaster

Under the unrelenting heat of a cloudless Maritzburg sky, Willem Roos along with Manie and Attie Visser examined the long split down the left side of their three-man kayak.

The trio had just experienced the toughest test of day one of the Dusi Canoe Marathon, Mission Rapids, and had come off second best.

Hurtling down the fast flowing water, they landed on a rock, see-sawing before hearing the unmistakable sound of fibreglass cracking.

The drenched men pulled their kayak to the bank and began repair work.

We will carry on – this is not going to stop us,” Attie said.

“We are just going to dry it off and tape it up.” These paddlers were not alone in taking a tumble in the churning water of the Msunduzi River. While the pros had easily navigated the test, the amateurs gave the crowds more to cheer about.

As the temperature rose, and the number of paddlers coming through grew, so did the spectators who rewarded every competitor who made it through unscathed with vigorous applause. For those who didn’t fare so well, and had to get back into their boats and try again, the support was even more vocal.

One of those on the river bank was 2012 Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley, who was not risking getting “Dusi guts” during her busy training regime.

“I am really excited to be here and follow the race,” she said. Hartley said she was in training and the chance of picking up an injury led to her decision not to take part.

The head of the Dusi organisers, Brett Austen-Smith, said he was “extremely happy” with day one and all had gone according to plan.

“So far the racing has been top drawer from both the men and the women. The heat has been quite a challenge, but we have a world-class medical team on standby.”

Fortunately, Austen-Smith said, no major injuries had been reported, with only the standard cuts and bruises being treated.

Yesterday’s race saw both the men’s and women’s records broken for the first leg, with Sbonelo Zondi and Robyn Kime taking first in the two categories respectively. 8P11

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