In a surprising turn of events Epworth pupil Christie Mackenzie finished second during the first leg of the 2017 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon on Thursday.
Mackenzie finished after multiple Dusi top 10 finisher Abby Solms and ahead of Olympic bronze medallist Bridgette Hartley.
The Epworth pupil said she was looking to finish in the top three but she didn’t know that she would end up finishing second.
When asked how she felt about being between these two canoeing giants, she said: “I feel really small”.
She said she was very happy with how she performed yesterday as “all I did was paddle and run as fast as I could”.
The thrilling atmosphere during the early morning was experienced by all who came out in their numbers in support of the paddlers at the start.
The bridge near the Ernie Pearce weir was filled with spectators cheering the paddlers on.
As soon as the canoeists were in sight, the crowd cheered and clapped as they passed by. Among the spectators, pupils from Epworth School, Maritzburg College and The Wykeham Collegiate were there to support their fellow pupils who were taking part in this year’s marathon.
When the paddlers arrived at the Bishopstowe portage, their seconders had a chance to give them water refills and replace broken paddles. The seconders also offered the paddlers moral support and encouragement.
The Witness caught up with the paddlers and spectators at Mission Rapids in the Valley of a Thousand Hills.
The spectators there described the valley as “absolutely breathtaking”.
The steep Cabbage Tree portage was without a doubt one of the most challenging parts of yesterday’s marathon.
The seconders and family members got another chance to give refreshments to the canoeists there.
A sight that left many teary-eyed was canoeist James Hackland’s daughters, Josie and Tess, trying to push their father up the steep road and encouraging him.
There was a festive atmosphere at the finish on day one at Duzi Bridge as friends, family and supporters congratulated the canoeists who were relieved to have finished the first day of the race.