Johannesburg - Jason Graham and Abbey Ulansky, members of the winning Unlimited Dusi canoe marathon teams in both the men’s and women’s races, both gave strong indications they had taken a final paddle down the famous river over the weekend.
Graham, 33, won the title with Andy Birkett on Saturday after a strongly-contested three days in which they overcame pre-race favourites Hank McGregor and Len Jenkins as well as Thulani Mbanjwa and Sbonelo Zondi.
Ulansky, known as the Dusi queen, mustered a record-equalling eighth title, and a back-to-back one with partner Robyn Kime, sealing a one-sided female race that saw them end well clear of Adie twins, Alex and Abby Adie.
However, both refused to commit to coming back for the K2 race in 2014.
“I said to Andy shortly after the finish that this is now most definitely the last time,” said Ulansky
Graham was convinced by his young partner prior the race to enter.
Ulansky, better known as Abbey Miedema, had been absent from the boat for close to 18 months having gone through pregnancy.
“I think I’m going to pass my crown onto Robyn,” she said after they won through in a record overall time of eight hours, 41 minutes and 59 seconds, over 17 minutes clear of the Adies (8:59.25).
“I’d like to (return) but it’s getting more and more difficult. You go through different stages in life and five years ago my priority was absolutely Dusi and now my passion’s Dusi, but my priority is my son.” Ulansky, who joined Marlene Loewenstein on eight wins in the race’s history, praised her partner Kime for helping her get there and said she enjoyed the win just as much as previous ones.
“It’s been a fantastic week. I had a great time with Robs,” she said.
“I think the support structure really helped.
“Each time you win it, there is something special and this time it was coming back just two months beforehand ad starting to prepare.”
Graham and Birkett also came through comfortably in the men’s race after leading from Campbells Farm just after the midway point on day one until the end.
“Day one was one of the toughest days of racing I have ever experienced with the lead changing hands seven times which just goes to show how tough it really was out there,” Birkett said.