Sunday 24 February 2013

Historic triumph of brother and sister Lance and Robyn Kime at the Unlimited Dusi 2013

The Kimes, Lance and Robyn, made history last weekend by winning the men's and women's titles at the Unlimited Dusi Canoe Marathon 2013, something never happened until this edition. Three intense days of competition, with high water which originated more capsizes among the favorites of those which are habitual, finished with the first title for Lance Kime and fourth consecutive for his sister Robyn.

At the start of the 1st stage, before the imposing Natal Canoe Club of Pietermaritzburg, the biggest names in South African canoeing were among the 60 seeded men and 14 women, with only absences for various reasons of Grant van der Walt and Michele Eray among those who might be able to win.

Since the departure it was clear that, due to the big water, nobody wanted surprises and started fighting to shoot the two first weirs, Earnie Pearce and Witness Weir, just in case of possible troubles. Len Jenkins Jr. was the first to cross his hometown followed closely by Hank McGregor, but gradually began to reach come up Birkett, Mbanjwa, Stott, Kime and company. From this point everybody missed already who was named as "Dark Horse", Shaun Rubenstein, which it turned out he had broken a pedal during the warm up and he suffered along the entire stage to keep the boat on the right line.

Similarly, another favorite, four-time winner Anthony Stott, suffered a fall in one of the portages and lost a fingernail on his left hand, causing a great pain the rest of the stage, which he ended in a modest 11th place.

Ahead, after the long and tough first portage, three paddlers were in the leading bunch: Birkett, Kime and Mbanjwa, followed closely by Zondi, while McGregor suffered in the run and began to lose time. However, an unfortunate mistake by Mbanjwa made him fall in when trying to adjust the foot pump. This made him lose some precious time that could not recover, while his position at the front was taken by his teammate of the Change a Life Team Sibonelo Eric Zondi, who had opted to extend the portage with his agile running and at the put in he was already leading the race. Birkett got rid of Kime and joined Zondi in the lead, but was finally Zondi who claimed the first stage by just twenty seconds, also establishing a new record time for Day 1.

Sibonelo Eric Zondi enetring the finish line of Day 1 at Dusi Bridge

Behind, Robyn Kime showed a tremendous superiority on her rivals and controlled the race perfectly, with Abby Adie in second place around twelve minutes behind and a surprising Bianca Haw in his first year of senior beating experienced paddlers like Hilary Pitchford and Jen Theron.

Here you can watch the video for Day 1

The second stage is the one for river lovers, with a series of chained rapids in the first half of the course that can make a difference after the confluence of the Dusi and Umgeni, where Nagle Dam had been flowing all night from 55 to 60 cubic meters of water, a torrent that made dangerous some points along the valley.

Zondi, Birkett and Kime started on their own the stage. Zondi wanted to shake off Birkett from his rudder and set a strong pace in the early miles that managed to widen the gap above the minute, while Kime stood around two minutes behind. After the complicated passes of Washing Machine Rapid (where people as powerful as Len Jenkins and Cam Schoeman said goodbye to his chances of victory) and Ibis Point, Sibonelo Zondi, who chose to portage this one, extended is lead as Andy Birkett decided to go through the small channel on the right hand side and bent his rudder. That came out expensive, because later he had to stop to replace the piece after telling his seconds he would need one. And not only that, but until he got the rudder blade, he suffered a lot to shoot the rapids on the good line, making him fall in Thombi Rapid, point that were he was surpassed by Lance Kime, which gradually was checking off from the list rapids without making any mistake and a continued with a strong and safe pace. The difference with McGregor and Mbanjwa was around 8 minutes and it seemed that the triumph was a matter of the three ahead.

So Zondi won again the second stage, with Lance Kime in second place just over a minute and a half, while Andy Birkett lost a lot of time with his capsize and the rudder swap and was surpassed by McGregor and Mbanjwa. Mcgregor finally got rid of "Bungee" Mbanjwa within the 10 km. of flatwater in Inanda Dam and stood in third place for the final stage.

It seems amazing that Robyn Kime recovered the K1 after the incident
But the drama of the day was in the women's race, where Robyn Kime quietly managed her advantage until she fell in at Hyppo Rapid and her K1 bent in two against a rock. The race seemed to be over for her, but miraculously her Velox poppoed out and recovered the shape, so she could continue the race, although Abby Adie had approached her enough. But even with her canoe not in the best conditions, Robyn Kime managed to put again the advantage at the finish over 10 minutes. Further back, Bianca Haw was beginning to pay the great effort of the first day and was surpassed by Hilary Pitchford in the fight for third place.

Here you can watch the video for Day 2 

Reached the third and final stage, in which Zondi could make history by becoming the first black paddler to win Dusi, everything seemed to follow the script, with Zondi ahead alone, although Kime was going slowly cutting down the gap. The big comeback came from McGregor, who showed all his quality and seconds were falling off quickly in the difference with the two paddlers at the front, closing up the gap to three minutes and joining the possibility of a title that seemed reserved only for Zondi or Kime.

But the big moment of the day was coming, sadly for Zondi, at the second step of Pumphouse Weir, were the brave paddler capsized probably due to fatigue in a relatively easy weir. Not enough with that, the kayak flowed downstream and it took ages to Zondi to get it back. Lance Kime seized the chance and overtook Zondi to lead the race for the first time and not to lose that place until the finish line at Blue Lagoon in Durban. McGregor also surpassed Zondi while trying to get his boat back, sneaking in a second place at the finish that tasted like glory for him after the time and positions lost in the first stage. And finally the magnificent Zondi claimed third position, certainly a great result but far from what he had deserved throughout the whole race. Fourth was Andrew Birkett, who could not extend his wins on a row up to four. Thulani Michael Mbanjwa was fifth, avoiding being caught by an excellent Ant Stott, which made a great comeback to sixth place in a field so well known for him.

Lance Kime (just 21 years old) enjoyed then a well-deserved victory while awaiting the arrival of her older sister Robyn, who seemed to have secured the title unless last-minute surprises appeared, which finally didn't. Robyn, U23 world marathon silver medalist last September in Rome, claimed her fourth consecutive Dusi title, what with her young age puts her upon the path of the great Miedema / Ulansky, her partner of K2 in the victories of 2010 and 2012, who already has eight and even to Lowenstein, who got them consecutively from 1986 to 1993. Second place was finally for Abby Adie and third went to Jen Theron, who managed to surpass in an exciting finish Hilary Pitchford, while Bianca Haw fell to fifth place overall.

Here you can watch the video for Day 3

And you can check the full overall results by clicking on this link.

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