Andy Birkett. For the love of sport.

18 June 2024, Tuesday

 Greatness is determined on and off the field of play







Last night at John Allan’s Locker Room , I got the opportunity to meet one of South Africa’s ‘somewhat unknown ‘ sporting greats –  7 times Duzi champion : Andy Birkett.

He shared some valuable stories.

Here are some insights into the world of paddle and portage:

Start with why:

Bruce Fordyce won the Comrades 9 times and became a house hold name in South Africa.

He participated in a sport which today remunerates its top athletes handsomely.

Andy Birkett, at age 26, has already won the Duzi 7 times, but he participates in a sport that barely covers the cost of his expenses.

Why does he do it – for the love of sport?

If there was no prize money we would still do it: Andy Birkett.

A valuable lesson for many of today’s sporting professionals who chase the money – chase the results – chase the game.

Then one day it dawns on them that they are no longer enjoying themselves – playing sport.

Control the Controllabes

This year’s Duzi was always going to be one of the toughest – due to very low water levels. But no on could have foreseen the drama that would unfold next.

With temperatures soaring into the 40‘s, portage was not the best option.

The final day dawned and someone had made a ‘’ Oscars ” like big mistake-  by keying in the wrong numbers – the result was that nearly zero water was  released from the Inanda dam  for day three .

AAAAA2015D3AndyPortageThe final 36 km final day would set the athletes apart.

The press wrote  about  8 time World Marathon gold medallist, Hank McGregor –  his portage not good enough.

Andy Birkett had another view on it, complimenting Hank McGregor.

Hank is a great runner, but no human being is designed to run fast with a 12 kg canoe, plus 1 kg paddle over that distance – in that kind of heat.

Dusi 2017 will definitely go down in history as one of the toughest in the history of the race! Well done to each and every paddler that made it to Durban and especially to Andy & Abby for your wins.  Hank McGregor

Ride Your Own Race.

There is a reason why the Dusi has been dominated by the likes of Graeme Pope Ellis, Martin Dreyer, and most recently Andy Birkett.

It takes more than just Talent, Technique and Training.

It takes guile

I was tired but I wasn’t stressed because I know that if you stress then you have the chance to make mistakes. Two years ago I made a big mistake at Thombi and Hippo Rapids, purely because I was stressing about being caught instead of concentrating on your own race:      Andy Birkett

Sport is tough enough without stressing about the opposition. It’s best to focus on what you are great at.

AAAAAndy-BirkettAndy Birkett, 26 years of age. A Great champion. Determined, confident, unassuming and humble.

That makes for a powerful champion’s cocktail

Whatever he does next – whatever sport he chooses –   whatever he puts his mind to – watch out.

Let’s just hope our sponsors see the inherent value in these ‘somewhat unknown ‘, but truly great athletes

Being out on the water when the conditions are good is something that’s hard to beat. Andy Birkett

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Rob Opie is a Brand Expert, Author, Speaker, and Performance Coach to Business Executives, Corporate teams, Sports teams and Individuals.


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