(Newly crowned Dusi women’s champion Laura O’Donoghue slipped in an eleventh hour entry for the Laura O’Donoghue on Friday 6 March as a final farewell before she returns to her farming commitments in Zambia.
Thirty-year-old O’Donoghue (Euro Steel) won her maiden Dusi title with an impressive domination of the women’s field, and said after her title winning performance that she was looking forward to hanging up her paddles after the tough three-day race from Camps Drift to Blue Lagoon.
The allure of the Non-Stop Dusi however dragged her back to her kayak, and she has slipped in a K1 entry for the 105km “Dusi-in-a-Day” outing on Friday.
“I was always going to call it quits on competitive paddling after the Dusi. But the Non-Stop will give me one last paddle on the Dusi rivers before we head back to Zambia ,” said O’Donoghue.
No stranger to the Non-Stop, having paddled it several times before with her husband Ross and once with Abbey Ulansky, this will be her first attempt at the Non-Stop Dusi in a K1.
“I am fitter now than I ever will be so I thought it made sense to give it a go. I must admit that I was umming and aahing about doing the Non-Stop after the Dusi, and decided at the last minute to give it a go.”
“Getting into shape to contest a Dusi takes a lot of time and sacrifices, and time away from my family, so this Dusi was always going to be my last serious paddle.
“So this Non-Stop is a bit of a farewell paddle for me,” said O’Donoghue. “We can’t paddle in Zambia sadly because there are too many crocodiles in the river there!”
Debbie Germiquet first won the women’s Non-Stop title in a K1 in 2007, and with time top paddlers have come to the realisation that the tough outing is arguably easier to manage in a K1 than a K2.
Since then Hillary Bruss has twice won the women’s Non-Stop title in a K1 and in 2012 Robyn Kime lowered the women’s race record with an impressive nine hours 43 minutes victory in a single.
O’Donoghue will almost certainly spend much of the race on Friday in the company of male paddlers, and will look to them to share the workload and sustain each other mentally during the tough latter stages.
She will be aware that the seasoned K2 crew of Kelly Howe and Sue Carter-Brown has also entered and will pounce on any opportunity created by a slip-up by O’Donoghue, who starts the one-day classic as the firm favourite to scoop the prized Dusi and Non Stop Dusi double in the same year.
The 2015 Non-Stop Dusi Canoe Marathon takes place on Friday 6 March from Camps Drift, Pietermaritzburg to Blue Lagoon, Durban.