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18 Jan 2007 14:38
Michael Mbanjwa made history on Thursday in the first stage of this year’s edition of the Hansa Powerade Dusi canoe marathon when he placed first.
This makes history as he is the first black paddler to ever win the first stage of the three-day event.
A delighted Mbanjwa said that he drew strength from Robert Lembethe when he passed his house.
“As you know, Robert Lembethe was the one who helped me to start paddling.
He passed away last year, but I was praying when I went passed his house.
“It was amazing because I fell out of my boat near the start and I must have been in 20th or 21st place—to win this stage was difficult, but I am very happy that I managed to do it” said Mbanjwa.
Mbanjwa’s incredible performance has been lauded by the canoeing fraternity.
“He was absolutely incredible and showed enormous guts to come back like he did,” said Ray de Vries, spokesperson for the event.
“He raced in front of his home crowd—he comes from the Valley near KwaXimba. We haven’t seen anything like this before; the crowds were going mad as they egged him on.
Mbanjwa starts the second day 27 seconds ahead of Ant Stott, who tried furiously to beat Mbanjwa, but couldn’t reel him in.
In the ladies race, Abbey Miedema beat Laura Thompson to win the first day’s stage.
A number of paddlers ended up in hospital with injuries.
“Netcare 911 took six people to St Anne’s hospital in Pietermaritzburg. Four of them were for dislocated shoulders, a back injury and a German participant who hurt his ribs. Apart from those incidents it was a great day for the organisers,” said de Vries.—Sapa
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