Mbanjwa to build on best ever fish at Umpetha

Paddler Thulani Mbanjwa hopes to regain his strength in time to take part in Sunday's Umpetha Challenge in Pietermaritzburg, after his body took some strain in the recent Fish River Canoe Marathon.

After stringing together two consistent days in the canoe at the Eastern Cape event over the weekend, he achieved a career-best seventh place finish.

“The field was very strong and a lot of the top guys were coming back from Marathon World Champs so they were in good form and I didn’t even expect to be even in the top ten,” Mbanjwa said.

“So I was very happy with how Fish went for me but I’m feeling flat and the body is so tired still, so hopefully I’m not getting sick and I will recover before Sunday.

“I’m keen for the Umpetha if I manage to recover in time.”

Mbanjwa first burst onto the South African river marathon scene almost a decade ago and became the first black paddler to win the Dusi Canoe Marathon with partner Martin Dreyer in 2008.

His superb 2014 Fish result would bolster the 31-year-old’s confidence ahead this weekend’s Umpetha.

“Everyone is starting to think about next year’s Dusi but other than the Ngwenya a couple of weeks ago where there was a water release from Henley Dam, there hasn’t been any water in the Msundusi River so I haven’t been paddling on the Dusi route at all.

“So the Umpetha is a good opportunity to get back onto the Dusi river and paddle down places like Ernie Pearce Weir and Commercial Road, which we haven’t done in a long time.

“The Umpetha is a really tough race though because no one has been running with the boat up until now so at this stage it’s just about trying to survive on the portage for most of the guys but the natural runners will always look to try open up a gap on the run and so staying with them after 18km of hard, fast paddling can be difficult.”

– Sapa

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