Change a Life Academy Media Release  No: CAL1801

21 Feb 2018

 Embargo: None  Written by: Nick Tatham

Best ever Dusi for Change a Life Academy

Pietermaritzburg - The Martin Dreyer Change a Life Academy raised the bar in the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon this past weekend, as his charges produced their best ever results at the iconic three-day race.

The Change a Life squad were going to be a formidable outfit at this year's Dusi with a number of strong paddlers teaming up as well as a few members teaming up with paddlers outside the squad for the race from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.

With 22 paddlers from the Academy taking part, there was always the chance that they could perform well, but to see the results that academy founder Martin Dreyer was impressed by the results achieved.

"This year's Dusi was the best ever for us, results wise," an ecstatic Dreyer mentioned. "Just looking from the top, Sbonelo Khwela, who finished third, was with the academy for seven years so to see him perform so well was a proud moment.

"Then Banetse Nkhoesa, who paddled with Ant Stott, the same person I won the Dusi with in 2004, finished fourth overall, another fantastic achievement!

"The current Change a Life academy paddlers then occupied positions seven to eleven as well as 14th, 15th, 16th, 19th and 20th overall and finishing first to third in the Under 23 age group," added Dreyer.

Prior to the start of the 2018 FNB Dusi the Change a Life pair that was touted to perform well were the Under 23 crew of Mthobisi Cele and Mpilo Zondi.

The duo absorbed the pressure of being age group favourites and came out on top ahead of fellow CAL stars Nqobile Makhanya and Siyanda Gwamanda in second and Mvelo Ngidi and Thabani Msiya in third Under 23.

"To have dominated the Under 23 category is really encouraging for the Academy's future and to see Mvelo do so well in his first year in the Under 23 age group bodes well for the next few years.

"Nqobile and Siyanda, Msawenkosi, Richard and Nhlanhla all achieved their first top 10 finish at the Dusi and I can see the guys maturing into strong paddlers.

"Unfortunately one team was so close and just missed out on the top 10 and that was Mvelo and Thabani in 11th but they are the youngest and so have many years ahead of them," Dreyer added.

The large team assembled by Dreyer for the iconic race through the Valley of a Thousand Hills was all chomping at the bit to do well in front of their families and friends. With four gold medals to count for their efforts, the team can be very proud.

"I am incredibly happy for Richard and Nhlanhla Cele because Richard has moved up to Johannesburg to become a coach for the Victoria Lake Canoe Club and training together has been a challenge so for them to end in the top 10 was a really good achievement.

"Also the efforts of Mmeli Cele and Maswenkosi Mtolo must be commended. Mmeli was very sick and vomiting on day one but they stuck to their guns and pushed hard to finish tenth overall," a proud Dreyer commented.

2018's Dusi threw up a scenario that no-one had ever seen before with the current drought ensuring that day three conditions would be testing once again. Uniquely, this year's race meant that paddlers paddled on a low 7 cumec water release on third stage, with it normally running at 20 to 25 cumecs or as with last year, no water.

Dreyer went into the third day slightly concerned about how his Change a Life team would cope.

"Day three was going to be technical on that low water and the guys showed great skills in negotiating the tricky rapids and running strongly on the Burma Road portage.

"Surprisingly many of them solidified or improved on their positions on the final day," Dreyer explained.

Dreyer has always been adamant that his Change a Life Academy is no more than a talent identification structure whereby that talent gets support to be the best they can. But recently Euro Steel has got on board with supporting their top-end athletes with a monthly stipend.

"It's great for the top guys to get monetary support from Euro Steel in the months leading up to the Dusi where they receive a monthly stipend which is basically a reward for training hard.

"I am over the moon with the Change a Life Zulus Dusi performance.

“Now it’s time to get some rest, reload and do it all over next year. I can't wait!" says Dreyer with a smile.


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The promising Change a Life pair of Mthobisi Cele and Mpilo Zondi paddled to a spectacular seventh overall and first Under 23 and the 2018 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon recently. Anthony Grote/
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The young Change a Life crew of Mvelo Ngidi and Thabani Msiya showed incredible promise to finish third in the Under 23 category in Ngidi's first year in the age group at the recent FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon. Supplied/
Gameplan Media
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