Durban — After wrapping up her year of studies in Cape Town, 2017 and 2018 Dusi Canoe Marathon runner-up Christie Mackenzie is back in KwaZulu-Natal and getting her Dusi preparations underway.
The Under 23 star shot to fame when she ran herself to second spot at the 2017 Dusi as a junior. It was an admirable performance giving the trying conditions that the paddlers faced on the final day of the race that year.
She then notched up a bronze medal at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in the K1 race the same year which helped cement her place as a top contender in women's paddling in South Africa.
With a busy period of racing at the start of 2019 that begins with the Drak Challenge in January and then the Dusi in February it is going to be a demanding few months for the Varsity College student.
"I've just got back to KZN and have begun my preparation for the river season and I am looking forward to racing here again," the athlete said.
"It has been a bit difficult training down in Cape Town during my exams but I have been running and going to the gym so that has helped.
"With that said I don't think I am anywhere close to as fit as I should be!"
With two seconds to show for her 2017 and 2018 efforts at the Dusi, Mackenzie is determined to go one better at the iconic three-day event from Pietermaritzburg to Durban.
"I really want to win the Dusi but I am going to race as hard as I can and hopefully that will be enough," she said.
"I also like to chase more than be the person being chased but we'll just see how it pans out and I hope I am in with a chance of winning come the end of day three!"
The nature of the Dusi is a highly competitive one and the prestige that comes with claiming the title means that even the slightest of mistakes can be the end of your title challenge and Mackenzie has identified where she needs to improve.
"I have got to minimize my mistakes if I am going to win," she said candidly. "I find that when I become tired I start to make some silly little errors which can cause a bit of panic.
"Going into the 2019 Dusi I want to be able to know where I am going and have a much better plan in place.
"My little brother (Hamish) is a natural in the river and I want to spend a lot of time with him working on lines for the Dusi so I can be as prepared as possible," Mackenzie added.
Mackenzie's 2018 effort with Bridgitte Hartley in a K2 was a race that she feels has put her in a better position tactically going into February's K1 showdown.
"I think being at the front of a K2 in a lowish river has improved my river skills and that will be important going into the race next year," she said.
"It's going to be an interesting race and I am not quite sure which girls will be there but with Robyn Owen looking like she is going to make a comeback it will be exciting.
"She is such a great competitor and a pleasure to race against so it will be a great contest," Mackenzie concluded.