Change a Life Academy Media Release  No: CAL1702

09 Mar 2017

 Embargo: None  Written by: Nick Tatham

Unbelievable CAL showing at 2017 Non-Stop Dusi

Durban – After being touted as the most challenging in recent times, the 2017 Non-Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon, presented by Lovemore Brothers, was dominated by Martin Dreyer’s Change a Life Academy paddlers with the Under-23 duo of Mthobisi Cele and Mpilo Zondi’s win coming as a big surprise on the day.

In addition to the winners, four boats from Martin Dreyer’s Change a Life Academies finished in the top six, with Banetse Nkhoesa and Nhlanhla Cele finishing third, Sibonizo Shozi in a K1 finished fifth and Mzamo Zondi and Khumbulani Nzimande finished sixth.

With the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon having been as tough as any race pre-Inanda Dam, the ‘Dusi in a Day’ as the Non-Stop has become known was going to be even more gruelling and seven-time winner Martin Dreyer’s reaction was one of proud surprise.

“If I was a betting man, I wouldn’t have put my money on those two to win the Non-Stop,” the academy founder said candidly.

“It was an unbelievable effort from them to pull off such an incredible win in some of the most difficult conditions I have ever seen for a Non-Stop Dusi.

“They really managed to pull the rabbit out of the hat in the last hour of the race and I was incredibly happy for them!”

The Dusi, which was two weeks prior to the Non-Stop, was made more difficult due to the drought conditions that have gripped KwaZulu-Natal and there was no water release from Inanda Dam for the third and final day.

“People thought that Day Three of Dusi was tough, these guys had to do Day One and Day Two first, all on the same day!

“To do all of that in one day is an incredible achievement, and to win the race as two Under 23 paddlers against the likes of Sbonelo Khwela is a terrific achievement.

“I have always felt that you have an unfair advantage if you are leading right at the end of a race because you have that excitement of leading right to the line,” Dreyer added.

The entire race took a dramatic twist in the final hour with the leading pair of fellow Change a Life Academy stars Banetse Nkhoesa and Nhlanhla Cele falling off the pace at Mango Rapid.

Defending champion Sbonelo Khwela was curtailed by a crack in his boat, and with the end just five kilometres away he was taking too much water on board and couldn’t keep up the pace with the young duo who powered to a memorable win.

Despite the lower numbers at the 2017 Non-Stop Dusi, Dreyer believes that the achievements from his Change a Life Academy put into perspective the types of athletes that they are.

“I think that the diminished entry list shows how tough the race is and is not a reflection on the popularity of the event.

“A lot of paddlers who usually enter Non-Stop wouldn’t have done so this year just because of the sheer difficulty of the race.

“I think the result reflects the nuggety resistance to adversity that these boys have,” he added.

Racing through the Valley of a Thousand Hills, past friends and family is also a big motivation for the young paddling stars, Dreyer added.

“It’s like them playing at their home ground. They have incredible support throughout the valley and this motivates them and buoys them on!”


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It was an incredible effort from Martin Dreyer's Change a Life Academy's young duo of Mpilo Zondi (front) and Mthobisi Cele (back) to win the 2017 Non-Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon, presented by Lovemore Brothers. Anthony Grote/
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