The South African Maritime Safety Authority (SAMSA) is gearing up for the 2017 World Canoe Marathon, preparing its paddlers to take on the world stage after having secured incredible wins at the Dusi Marathon this weekend, taking home Gold and Silver medals.
SAMSA is proud to announce that all nine paddlers from its Change a Life Program completed the Dusi Marathon this weekend with 23 year old Mhlonishwa Hlongwane scooping a Gold medal at 8th place overall, and came 3rd in the Under 23 Division.
This is a proud moment for SAMSA Change a Life which was established in 2013 and today can boast that all their nine paddlers who all come from disadvantaged backgrounds have completed the race. Come the 2017 World Canoe Marathon, SAMSA is optimistic that more South Africans from previously disadvantaged groups can qualify for the world stage race.
Sobuntu Tilayi, Chief Operating Officer of SAMSA, was optimistic that the next time the nine paddlers participated in any canoe race, they would surprise many. “These young men are chasing their old records. And they are outdoing themselves. They have incredible support from the own communities. They have tired legs, sore bodies, suffered cramps, and one even lost his paddles. But they persevered. This is the calibre of true champions.”
Tilayi added: “This is a true test of their strength. This is an international race and the young men, come the 2017 World Canoe Marathon will be in true best form and retain their considerable gains they have made.
“At SAMSA, we are poised to ensure that this sport will now become more accessible to those who have not been previously exposed to it because of access to facilities and clubs. This 2017 event will also put South Africa on the international water sport stage. With the SAMSA Change a Life program our aim is to bring more young black canoeists into the racing fold.”
Sipho Patrick Canham came in the first 50, taking a Silver medal, while the other paddlers including newcomers Scelo Mfeka and brothers Mboniseni and Hlanganani Gcwensa completed the race. The rest of the young men, Mmeli Ndimande, Mhlonishwa Gcwensa, and brothers Nduduzo and Sphamandla Shozi completed the gruelling three day race from Pietermartizburg to Durban beating their old records.
Hlongwane’s total race time was 8:38.51. In comparison to the winner Andy Birkett whose time was 7:55.35 the young Enanda man broke his own record and was closer to the winning champions. His third placing in the U23 division was a bigger feat.
From day one of the Dusi, Hlongwane had set his sights to finish in the top 10 ranking. “I told myself when I started that I will finish in the Top 10. To finish 8th is special to me, a good feat for SAMSA because without the organisation, I would not be here. The incredible support to me as an athlete and to my family is encouraging me to try my best. I am not surprised by my performance because I have worked really hard. I have done better than last year,” Hlongwane said.
He added SAMSA had helped him reach his goals. Had I not had any support system nor equipment I would not be here today.”
Martin Dreyer who runs the SAMSA Change a Life Academy was a proud man this weekend. “At prize giving our boys were grinning from ear to ear. They were pleased to have completed the monumental journey by river from Pmb to Durban.
“Its a massive achievement and in Dr Ian Players words, ‘Once completing this epic paddling journey, your life will never be the same again’,” the seven times Dusi winner said.
He thanked SAMSA for “giving these young men this great opportunity, providing the support structures to make finishing a Dusi possible”. In a few weeks’ time, the SAMSA paddlers under the Change a Life academy some as young as 12 will take part in the schools canoe competition.
Watch the press for details.