Change a Life Academy Media Release  No: CAL1503

9 Apr 2015

 Embargo: None  Written by: Kyle Gilham

Milestone achievements for Change a Life sprint sensations

Pietermaritzburg – The 2015 South African Canoe Sprint Championships that took place over the weekend, will forever be remembered as a magical two days for Martin Dreyer’s Computershare Change a Life Academy after Under-18 youngsters Thabani Msiya and Msawenkosi Mtolo claimed three gold medals and a silver at the National contest.

Up against some of the country’s top teenage canoe sprint talent, the Valley of a Thousand Hills youngsters headed to Roodeplaat Dam in Gauteng where the duo clinched the silver medal in the Under-18 boys’ K2 1000m contest before going on to claim gold in their age group’s 200m, 500m and 5000m K2 events.

“Msawenkosi and Thabani’s success was an unexpected, yet a very welcome surprise to all of us, including themselves!” beams former ‘Dusi Duke’ and Academy founder Dreyer.

“For them to have won SA Sprint Champs gold medals is just incredible and goes down in history as the first time black development paddlers have won a SA Champs title!”

The pair’s remarkable journey from sprinting wilderness to national gold medalists has been a surprisingly short one and began shortly before this year’s Dusi Canoe Marathon.

“Msawenkosi and Thabani live at [Bus Stop] Number 9, near Dusi Bridge, and with the Msundusi’s flow here not being predictable enough for them to train on properly, Change a Life rented a house at Inanda Dam where they stayed for two months.

“Under the guidance of top ten Dusi Change a Lifer Mhlonishwa Hlongwane, the two enjoyed a High Performance training camp valley style, if you like, and it was there that they jumped to a whole new level!

“Compared to the Dusi – which is endurance based and involves running with the boat – sprinting really is not their strength but the hard work that these two have put in has been exceptional and now to see them achieve such great results really is fantastic!”

Like that of many of their fellow Valley of a Thousand Hills paddling hopefuls, Mtolo and Msiya’s paddling journey has been a difficult one as they are forced to overcome the daily challenges they are presented with in order to achieve their goals.

“Talent beats hard work every time, except when talent doesn’t work hard!” smiles Dreyer.

“These two, in particular, are willing to work hard and that’s what has just been so pleasing to see!

“They don’t have it easy by any means. For example, just for this SA Sprints trip they had to hop onto a bus to get to Johannesburg and then catch a taxi to the dam and camp there for three days during the championships. They competed in a borrowed, year-old Dusi river boat while many others enjoyed the luxury of a lighter, stiff sprint boat.

“Mentally this didn’t affect them though, as they don’t know any different.

The recently concluded KZN river marathon season signaled a change in focus within the Change a Life setup with a greater emphasis placed on flat water racing and the next generation of stars.

On top of the programme’s great Dusi showing, Mtolo and Msiya’s recent sprint success further justifies the shift and signaled the reaching of a major milestone not only for the pair but the entire programme as well.

“There is no denying that the Dusi is what gets our Change a Life Zulus super excited,” explains Dreyer. “However these guys just love the sport of canoeing and are passionate about paddling in general!”

“Msawenkosi and Thabani’s sprint achievements are a big step in the right direction in our bid to diversify away from just being Dusi specialists.

“More importantly though, their gold medals have given the rest of our Change a Life youngsters the belief that they too can reach the top!

“It’s all well and good telling someone they can do it but when they can see it for themselves, then their motivation and belief go through the roof!

“Msawenkosi and Thabani’s achievements reaffirm that what we’re doing does in fact have a positive impact on the lives of others and it is great to be able to thank those who have believed in what we’re trying to achieve such as Computershare, USN and Hi-Tec with results as big as these!” he adds.

The annual SA Marathon Championships now draw near, representing Mtolo and Msiya’s next major challenge.

The pair will give the flat water nationals their all as they look to challenge for a spot in the National team that will head to Hungary in September for the 2015 Canoe Marathon World Championships.

“It’s great that they’ve now got good confidence and believe in themselves.

“Amazingly, they’ve reached this level without much attention on details such as a lightweight boat, sprint paddles, pull straps, etc.

“Now that they’ve proven themselves we will get their setup correct which should have an immediate positive impact on their performance.

“We look forward to seeing how they will go at SA Marathons!” says Dreyer.


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Computershare Change a Life Academy paddlers Thabani Msiya (left) and Msawenkosi Mtolo (right) made history when they became the first ever black development paddlers to clinch a gold medal at the South African Canoe Sprint Championships held at Roodeplaat Dam in Gauteng over the weekend. Supplied/
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