Pietermaritzburg – 17-year-old Nokhanya Shange of the KwaNdengezi region near Shongweni Dam has her heart set on completing her first ever K1 Dusi Canoe Marathon when this year’s race takes place from February 19-21 and, in so doing, will become the youngest ever black female to achieve the feat.
Natal Canoe Club Development Programme’s Candy Mavundla currently holds the record after successfully navigating her way through 2013’s K1 Dusi at just 18 years old however Shange is determined to get her K1 to Blue Lagoon in one piece in a little over two weeks’ time.
Shange has already conquered the iconic three day race previously having successfully partnered Eric Khoza to a mixed doubles finish in 2014 despite being just 16 years-old however the young ace is now eager to add an individual finisher’s medal to her collection.
“I started paddling four years ago when I was invited to try it out by a friend at Shongweni Dam,” explains Shange.
“I enjoyed it straight away and Bridgitte Hartley was my hero and inspired me to train harder.
“It was a wonderful opportunity to represent South Africa at last year’s African Sprint Championships in Tunisia and to win gold with Kayla de Beer before being selected for the South African team that went to the African Youth Games in Botswana.
“For now though, I’m completely focused on this year’s K1 Dusi!” she adds.
With Umzinyathi Canoe Club operating out of Shongweni Dam, it was only natural for the youngster to soon start to look up to 2014 Dusi winner and fellow Shongweni resident Sbonelo Khwela.
“Sbonelo (Khwela) motivates and inspires me as well as the development team from Umzinyathi Canoe Club.
“We all train together and I do the same training as the guys so plus I have done the races leading up to this year’s Dusi so I am fit and ready for the Dusi!
“It is hard to run with the canoe but I’ve been training every day so my running has improved so much and I have learnt and carried on.”
Through the funds of the National Lottery and the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Sport and Recreation, the likes of Khwela (Euro Steel/Red Bull), Thulani Mbanjwa (Build it/Williams Hunt) and Martin Dreyer’s Computershare Change a Life Academy members have risen to the top of the sport and proven the success of canoeing development programmes in the country.
Shange is however still one of only a few black females currently enjoying and excelling in the sport, something that the young enthusiast hopes her 2015 K1 Dusi efforts will help change.
“I want to show my friends at school that they can also do something like the Dusi!
“There aren’t many black females who paddle because their parents will not let them go to the dam as they are scared of water but I want to show them that they can do it!” she says determinedly.
The Thokoza Mnganga High School pupil is quick to give thanks to her support structures for the role they have played in getting her to this year’s Dusi while also not letting the size of the task ahead of her diminish her goals for the upcoming challenge.
“Thanks to my sponsor – Kim Pople, Umzinyathi Canoe Club and my parents for encouraging me to paddle!
“Special thanks to our coach at Umzinyathi – Thembinkosi Ncgobo – as well as Sbonelo Khwela plus my Principal, Mr. Manukuza!
“This will be my first K1 Dusi and I’m nervous and excited but I’m looking forward to trying to finish in the top three in the junior girls’ category!” says Shange.
The 64th edition of the Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place from Camps Drift in Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon in Durban from Thursday 19 to Saturday 21 February 2015. More information can be found at www.dusi.co.za