Khwela Primed for 2017 Dusi Success
It is 4am in the morning and Sbonelo Khwela’s alarm awakes him from a deep sleep.
While most people are enjoying a little more shut-eye than usual during the festive season, Khwela knows he must begin his training at the crack of dawn before December’s searing heat begins to bathe the Shongweni Dam.
It is six weeks to the 2017 Dusi Canoe Marathon and the 28-year-old has entered the final and most taxing phase of his preparations.
Khwela along with Andy Birkett won the 2014 (K2) race. Three years on and he is ripe to add a K1 victory to his list of honours.
“I am very confident ahead of this year’s race. I have a good feeling about it. Winning the K1 Dusi is the ultimate prize for any competitive paddler,” Khwela said.
Khwela who lives in Shongweni trains twice a day along with fellow competitors, Banetse Nkhoesa and Marc Germiquet.
“These guys are pushing me hard in training. We have a good relationship and feed off each other,” Khwela explained.
A lack of rain however has made it difficult for him to prepare for the technical aspects the race requires.
“You know it is important for us to find lines in the water. The low water level makes it a challenge,” Khwela explained.
Widely regarded as one of the most powerful runners the competition has ever seen, Khwela admits that this year he has shifted his attention mainly to paddling.
“Running is my strength but in order to win I have to paddle well. I am still running and training in the gym twice a week but at the moment my big focus is in the dam,” he said.
Multiple winner Birkett and 2013 champion, Lance Kime present the biggest threats to Khwela’s charge for honours. He prefers not to worry too much about the competition though.
“I am very focused this year. I know that these guys are beatable. It is important for me to do the best that I can do in training and race my heart out on race days,” Khwela said.
He will arrive at the 2017 race in good form having won the recent Umpetha Challenge and StaminaGro 50 Miler Canoe Marathon.
“I am in good form at the moment. I believe if everything comes together then this could be my year,” Khwela concluded.