EXECUSPORTS-sponsored paddler, Christie Mackenzie, continued her rise to the highest ranks of the sport with a sensational performance in the recent Dusi Canoe Marathon.
The 17-year-old Durbanite, contesting her third Dusi, finished second in the adult female division to 28-year-old Abby Solms, but as a 17-year-old Christie won a gold medal in the under 18-division, the first contestant home. Overall, her 54th place among the seasoned veterans of this highly demanding sport, male and female, is being regarded as so formidable that one giant worldwide sponsor has already come knocking.
The Dusi Canoe Marathon was founded in 1951, and covers roughly 120km between the cities of Pietermaritzburg and Durban in KwaZulu-Natal, on the East Coast of South Africa. It is the biggest canoeing event on the African continent, and one of the world’s most popular river marathons, attracting between 1600 and 2000 paddlers each year – and 2017 was a K1 championship season.
The race is unique in that it includes numerous portages where the paddlers carry their craft over hills, either to cut out unrunnable rapids and cataracts, or to eliminate long loops in the river. Most of these portages are through thick bush on steep and undulating terrain, and several of them are around 4km in length.
“This year, due to water shortages in the Inanda area near Durban there was a stretch on Day Three that required us to run 20km holding our canoes and it was the hardest day ever,” Christie tells. But all ended well and she finished strongly, clocking 11:05:49 for the gruelling contest.
Her achievements came with a R22,500 cheque for being the second female home and a further R6,500 for her junior prize and while Christie is understandably chuffed with that, she’ll have to wait for the cash until the customary drug testing routines have been completed.
Christie already has her sights set on the 2017 World Championships for which qualification will be held in Pietermaritzburg. She was a member of last year’s Protea team in Brandenburg, Germany, and is certain to improve on what really was a look-see against the best in the world last year.
A pupil of Our Lady of Fatima Convent, Christie says that her school has been flexible and very supportive of her exploits, which include a six-day a week training regime under veteran paddler Hank McGregor, fourth overall in the Dusi himself this year.
Christie has ambitions of pursuing a career in Sports Pshycology. She has an open avenue to studying overseas via her sister’s residence in London, but at this stage she’d prefer studying in Cape Town and she says: “Fortunately, in this sport one gets stronger as you get older, not the other way round, so studying for a few years won’t interrupt a future career abroad, which is really the only place one can make a living out of paddling.”
Christie has the talent and the attitude to make it any endeavour and we’d keenly support her on her road to the top!
See our Christie Gallery below for more. (Photos by Jenna Ward, Euro Steel, supplied)