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From gatekeeper to club paddler

Blessing Alufeyo joined the Victoria Lake Club staff as a security guard, and now he paddles at club level.

Byline: Kgotsofalang Mashilo

Blessing Alufeyo, a 24-year-old from Germiston, has proved that when he aligns his mind and body he can rise above any circumstance and dictate his own destiny.

Blessing started work as a security guard at the Victoria Lake Club (VLC) in 2009 and now he’s a member of the VLC Canoeing Club.

Blessing Alufeyo paddles out onto the water in his canoe at the Victoria Lake Club recently.

Fitness has always been a point of interest for Blessing, so while working as a security guard he would spend his days off working out with a friend who had access to his work gym, but when management changed the rules and only permitted employees of the company to use the gym, Blessing had to make other arrangements.

“I like keeping fit, and when I could no longer exercise with my friend at his workplace, I was devastated, but then I thought to myself, I work at the Victoria Lake Club, why don’t I take up paddling as a form of exercise since the equipment and water is at my disposal,” said Blessing.

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He began by watching the development programme where children learn how to swim and paddle and after a few weeks Richard Cele, the development programme coach, who now coaches him, asked if he would like join them and try paddling.

“When Richard took note of my interest and invited me to join their practice session I jumped at the opportunity to learn from him and develop myself.

“Whenever I found the time I began teaching myself how to paddle better.

“If I had the morning shift I would exercise at night and if I had the night shift I would use my mornings to practise,” said Blessing.

His determination was conspicuous; a few club members soon offered him paddling advice and pointers to help him improve his skills.

“I was taken for swimming lessons, because in canoeing one needs to know how to swim as a safety measure in case you fall into the water,” said Blessing.

Theresa Welsh, a member of the VLC Canoeing Club, said, “Blessing showed real courage when he was taken by some of the club members on a swift water rescue course.

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 “On this course, we learn how to handle ourselves in fast-moving water.

“Blessing, who is not a confident swimmer, jumped straight in with the rest of us.

“He is still very keen to achieve and paddles whenever he gets some free time.”

Passionate about honing his skills and one day competing in competitions other than club races, Blessing said he is proud of his progress and wants to change his paddle time in 6km races from 55 minutes to a lesser time in order to make it to competitions such as the Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon, which takes place in October in the Eastern Cape.

“Usually, I come out in seventh or eighth position in club races where roughly 30 or 40 people are competing.

“Working on my time will definitely help me beat some of the best in the club.

“I want to be a champion,” he said.

Richard said, “We need to get him in the river proficiency training programme to prepare him for river races, which is not a problem because Blessing is always eager to train.

“He has shown pure dedication for the sport, which makes our game plan to get him to more events much simpler,” he said.

Blessing not only paddles at VLC and fulfils his security guard duties, but he also joined Shellee Nel, one of the founders of the Victoria Lake Club Water Sports Institute in their programme to introduce water sports to underprivileged children from surrounding areas and teach them all about canoeing.

Have a story?

Contact the newsroom by emailing: Melissa Hart (Editor) germistoncitynews@caxton.co.zaor Leigh Hodgson (News Editor) leighh@caxton.co.za or Kgotsofalang Mashilo (journalist) kgotsofalangm@caxton.co.za

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