Local Government confident in unique Dusi

Pietermaritzburg – As the race organisers prepare for the 63rd running of the Dusi Canoe Marathon, top paddlers have described it as “the best organized race in the world” while the organizing committee has heaped praise on the local government for helping achieve this critical acclaim.

Current marathon world champion Hank McGregor has labelled the race “one of a kind”, seasoned paddler and another former world marathon champ Ant Stott says it is the “best organised race in the world”.

“People need to know that there isn’t a paddling event anywhere in the world that is as well organised and as slick as the Dusi,” said Stott, who has raced river marathons all over the world, including the iconic Ardeche marathon in France and the Sella Descent in Spain.”

“The Dusi is one of the biggest sporting events in the province and it would not be where it is today without the support from for the government and the Department of Sport and Recreation,” Dusi General Manager Brett Austin Smith said, lauding their confidence in the race and their efforts in sustaining the three-day event.

“It is exhilarating to share the same vision as the Department of Sport and Recreation, and their passion to ensuring that the Dusi stays the premier canoeing race in Africa and one of the world’s greatest canoeing events,” Austin Smith highlighted. “A combination of heritage and the high standards set by the organizing committee is reflected in the local government’s desire to make KwaZulu-Natal the home of world class sporting events with precisely the same characteristics.”

Canoeing has become a standout sport in terms of development with a number of young black people getting involved in the sport and a number of black paddlers at the top of results are becoming greater due to the sound development programs in place.

“The development of young paddlers in the province has only been possible through the generous donations from the Department of Sport and Recreation. The most encouraging thing to come from these development initiatives is the amount of paddlers that are achieving at the highest level,” Austin Smith said.

The MEC for Sport and Recreation in the province Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Saphetha understands the significance of the Dusi in terms of its impact on the province as well as nationally and is glad the her department have backed the event to the extent that they have.

“The Dusi is an iconic event in the province and it draws in people from all over the country, indeed all over the world, to Kwazulu-Natal. Hosting iconic events like the Dusi serves as a catalyst to encouraging people from all walks of life to participate in sport and to stay active and live a healthy lifestyle.

“The development of paddlers in Kwazulu-Natal has been very impressive. The amount of previously disadvantaged paddlers taking part in the race is encouraging and as an event the Dusi has been very instrumental in growing the sport of canoeing amongst the rural communities,” the MEC added.

Four time Dusi winner Stott, says the Dusi sets the global benchmark for canoeing event organisation. “Everything from the moment paddlers register and collect their goodie bags, to the media, the marshalling, and the incredible atmosphere along way is simply the best in the world,” said Stott.

Stott said the race was truly unique as it required a vast knowledge of the river and portages.

“A lot of races around the world you arrive at and race from point A to point B but the Dusi is very different to that in that you really need to have spent a lot of time in the valley practicing and gaining experience on what is the shortest and safest way to get to Durban.

“It is so far from your average race, it is so technical and learning the in’s and the outs of the valley are vital for all paddlers,” Stott mentioned.

Hank McGregor say that there is no race in the world like the Dusi and that the adventure aspect of the race makes it hugely unique as well as appealing to him and a lot of the other paddlers.

“The thing about the Dusi is that the best paddler does not necessarily win the race,” McGregor mentioned. “It is one of the biggest events in the province and a widely recognised event country wide and it draws people in from all over the country.”

The running aspect of the race is something that McGregor has singled out as one of the most unique aspects of the race and cannot think of another event around the world where so much portaging is done.

“If you add up all the running in the Dusi you are probably looking at around 16km all in all and that is something that you don’t see in any other race anywhere in the world. Most portages are a few hundred metres!

“You didn’t see Michael Schumacher driving his car for one lap and then pushing it for the next and that is why the pure canoeist sees the Dusi as such an obstacle because it is so different from what they are used to doing,” the decorated paddler mentioned.

South African canoeing personality and internationally acclaimed paddler Barry Lewin understands the significance of the Dusi and attributes the races uniqueness to the tradition that has been amassed over the years.

“The race definitely has massive tradition,” Lewin said. “When I think of the race I immediately think of the section through Alexandra Park in Pietermaritzburg where there are people lining the banks and all of the school kids come out to support the race.

“It is more than just a canoeing race, people say that it is an adventure challenge and that is exactly what it is. With the large amount of portaging it really is more than just a canoeing race,” Lewin added.

The Dusi Canoe Marathon 2014 starts in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday 13 February and ends in Durban on Saturday 15 February 2014. More information can be found at www.dusi.co.za

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MEC of Sport and Recreation in KZN Mrs Ntombikayise Sibhidla-Saphetha (back) is pictured with Thuthu Manyathi in a canoe at Camps Drift as the Department of Sport and Recreation have shown confidence in the race by sponsoring the event significantly as the build up nears its end with the race getting under way at Camps Drift on 13 February. Brad Morgan/ Gameplan Media

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