KwaZulu-Natal Department of Sport and Recreation’s (KZNDSR) Elite Athlete Development Programme (EADP) paddling star Banetse Nkhoesa defied the odds at the 2016 FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon to recover from a severe stabbing in December and finish the three-day adventure in third place overall with partner Sbonelo Khwela.
Despite initial ambitions of winning the overall crown at the 2016 FNB Dusi, Nkhoesa and Khwela had to reign in that desire following a stabbing incident that left Nkhoesa with a wounded shoulder and punctured lung which led to a decrease in the functionality of his left lung.
The EADP is a KZNDSR programme which is delivered in partnership with Prime Human Performance Institute and sports federations to give holistic support to top provincial athletes. Nkhoesa’s miraculous recovery from the devastating injury came through determination and, in particular the hard work of Prime’s Dr Kevin Subban and team.
“It was never just one person that was responsible for my recovery,” a delighted Nkhoesa said. “The whole team all played a huge part in getting me back to full fitness before the Dusi and getting a podium was just my way of saying thank you to them for all of their hard work!”
“The Department of Sport and Recreation also played an important role and for that I am very grateful!”
Having been told during his recovery that he would not be back to his full potential before the race, Nkhoesa knew that he was going to have to train even harder if he was to give himself and his partner Khwela even a chance of finishing close to the summit of the results.
“We were really happy with our result considering what happened in December.
“Those extra challenges made it that much harder for us but it also made the podium place that much more satisfying!
“We honestly couldn’t have asked for much more – we left it all out there over the three days,” he beamed.
Fellow EADP star Khwela famously said before the starter’s gun fired that if Nkhoesa was going to be at 96% then he had to be at 104% in order for them to challenge for a top spot and the latter credits a lot of their success to the motivation that Khwela provided throughout the three-day adventure.
“Sbonelo played a big role in getting me through some of the tough periods of the race.
“He showed faith in me by taking on the race with me when he could have found someone else instead.
“I have always looked up to him and he pushed me to my limits which got us over the line,” added Nkhoesa.
Prime Director Dennis Jackson has been following the progress of Nkhoesa closely and felt the emotion of their performance when he and Khwela crossed the line in third place on Saturday.
"I have never been more happy or emotional to see two sports stars finish any race than when Banetse and Sbonelo finished on Saturday!” described an emotional Jackson. “It was truly one of the greatest comebacks I have ever witnessed in Elite Sports High Performance and Medicine.”
The tough 11km stretch along Inanda Dam to finish the second day in particular takes a lot out of paddlers and Nkhoesa was no different, leaving Jackson worried that the EADP’s ‘comeback kid’ may not have anything left in the tank for the final day’s racing.
“Msawenkosi Mtolo and I had to carry Banetse from the tent to our car at the end of day two.
“He had given everything he had and was completely shattered – I saw first-hand how much he had given!
“We then shot him back to Dr. Subban at Prime to give him the best chance of recovering for the final day but at this stage already, Sbonelo and Banetse had exceeded all expectations by a long, long way.
“To then finish day three with the fastest time of the day was just exceptional!" Jackson explained.
Chairperson of Umzinyathi Canoe Club, to whom both Nkhoesa and Khwela belong, Kim Pople heaped praise on all party's involved.
“I personally do not know how to describe Sbonelo and Baneste’s last nine weeks.
"Tears, fear, doubt, anger are all words that can describe the first few weeks after Baneste’s stabbing. Then to see them chasing World Champion Medalists down the river to a podium finish in the Dusi Canoe Marathon was incredible.
"To the EADP and the magicians at Prime, no words can describe the role that you played in getting these two athletes back in the boat and to the starting line, let alone to stand on the podium!
"Thank you for everything that you did for the guys," Pople stated.
More information can be found at www.eadp.co.za