Water Sport

Safety first, says Dusi champion Birkett

2020-05-15 09:43
Andy Birkett and Khumbulani Nzimande (Gameplan Med
Andy Birkett and Khumbulani Nzimande (Gameplan Media)

Dusi Canoe Marathon champion Andy Birkett is not going crazy over the lack of action under lockdown, as some might expect, but there are others in water sports who seem to be fighting heavy frustration.

Birkett’s calm demeanour hides his never-say-die trait and he is trying to use his time at home as well as possible in the belief that safety is far more important that sporting competition.

For sure, the multiple Dusi winner is going to miss two major events set for Europe in a few months’ time because of the Covid-19 pandemic, but his current stance is deepened by the fact that his wife, Nikki, is due to give birth to their second son next week.

“I do miss canoeing and surf skiing, but I honestly would not say that I am very disappointed about the current situation, as there are more important things in life than sport,” he said from his residence in East London.

“There are people who are really battling in this country with poverty and stuff, so the lack of races does not really bother me.

“We will just have to wait for when it is safe to have them again. At the moment, I go for a jog with my two-year-old son [David] in his pram in the morning and I also exercise on one of those spinning bikes we have at home.”

The 30-year-old Maritzburg College old boy, who has excelled in regional, national and international championships down the years, was already not planning to tackle the Berg River Canoe Marathon in the Western Cape, which was set for 8-11 July but was formally cancelled this week.

However, he did have his eye on events in Spain and eastern Europe for the second half of the year before his plans for them got affected by the pandemic.

“When we are allowed back in the boat again, I will be looking for some races here and there,” he said.

His former title-winning Dusi partner, Hank McGregor, on the other hand, has expressed great disappointment at the cancellation of events.

The star paddler told Netwerk24 this week that he was planning to add at least one more Berg and world title to his long list of achievements, but the virus had put a dent in that plan for now.

Durban-based McGregor has won the Berg crown 11 times and scooped 11 gold medals at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships to date, among others.

Last year, McGregor smashed the race record for the Jim Molokai Challenge in Hawaii.

He expressed the hope that government would allow sporting action to resume sooner rather than later.

He also explained in the article that he loved the pressure of K1 competitions where he had only himself to rely on in the quest for a podium spot.

Meanwhile, national swimming coach Graham Hill also expressed frustration on behalf of swimmers at the lack of action under lockdown.

He said they were experiencing bad vibes like many other sports people at present, but he was convinced that they could return to the pool while observing social distancing and other regulations.

However, they’re waiting anxiously to hear from government about the resumption of sports activities.


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