Durban - The 2015 Dusi Canoe Marathon will honour its founder and inaugural
winner Dr Ian Player who passed away peacefully on Sunday afternoon.
Dr Player, who was 87, suffered a stroke on Thursday and passed away quietly surrounded by family at his Karkloof home.
Player was one of the eight adventurers that set off on the first ever
Dusi Canoe Marathon in 1951 and was the only finisher, becoming the
first champion of the paddling and portaging ultra-marathon from
Pietermaritzburg to Durban.
The 2015 edition of the Dusi will he held in special tribute to Dr Ian
Player, who maintained very close ties with the race that he helped
found 64 years ago.
"We are devastated by the news that Dr Player has passed away," said
Dusi GM Brett Austen Smith. "He was truly great South African, a man
who's vision and perspective was quite inspiring."
"His passion for adventure and conservation will always be cherished by
the 12 374 men and women who have followed in his footsteps and
completed a Dusi, and by every single one of the athletes that will
start the 2015 edition of the race in his memory," Austen Smith added.
Player continually applied pressure on local authorities and
municipalities to pay more attention to the state of the rivers in
KwaZulu-Natal, and to the uMsundusi and uMngeni rivers that play host to
the Dusi Canoe Marathon.
"We can judge people's attitude to conservation of our natural
environment by the state of our rivers," Player said in an emotional
appeal earlier this year.
"Nothing would please me more than to come down to the start of the next
Dusi and see clean river banks and clean water for all the people of
these valleys to enjoy."
Player was globally heralded conservationist who championed the
conservation of the white rhino in particular. He is acknowledged
worldwide as the grandfather of nature conservation in South Africa.
He will be buried at a small private family service, while a number of memorial services in his honour are being planned.
"His passing has been so gentle and peaceful while his Spirit and Soul
were being absorbed into the Greater Universe," said Sheila Berry on
behalf of the Player family.
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.