Ward & Solms’ stars align for Umpetha Challenge

The FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon build-up season begins with a bang this weekend and for Jenna Ward and Abby Solms the partner search is over after they opted to team up for the exciting Umpetha Challenge this Sunday, 8 November.

Despite the fact that both Ward and Solms have already got partners for the 2016 edition of the FNB Dusi they were both partnerless for this weekend’s clash as their Dusi partners are both foreign paddlers.

Ward is set to tackle next year’s FNB Dusi with two-time ladies Under-23 World Marathon Champion Vanda Kiszli of Hungary while Solms will be reuniting with her 2014 FNB Dusi partner and 2015 Hansa Fish River Canoe Marathon co-winner, Czech Republic star, Anna Kožíšková.

“Abby and I have been speaking about paddling together for a while,” said Ward. “We finally made the decision last week that we would paddle Umpetha, 50 Miler, Ozzie etc. together because both of our partners are only going to be arriving in South Africa in January.

“It works out nicely for both of us as we will still be able to get a lot of racing in between now and when our partners arrive,” the MAC Squad star added positively.

Although the pair will be going into this weekend blind, Ward is confident that her and Euro Steel star Solms will be able to gel quickly and become a strong combination throughout the build up to next year’s FNB Dusi.

“I am not too phased that we have not been paddling together. I have been training quite hard in Durban and I know that she will be training in Pietermaritzburg and to have experience like Abby’s in the boat will be a major plus.

“Being able to paddle with someone of Abby’s ability is going to be an awesome learning experience for me!

“I watch her go down some rapids and I always think to myself, ‘how does she do that?’ so I am going to try and take on and learn as much as I can during our time together,” mentioned a grateful Ward.

Ward has been fairly vocal in her dislike for running with a boat on her shoulder however she is going into the 2015/16 season with a fresh mindset given her river season starts with one of the tougher one day races on the calendar this weekend.

“I am always a bit worried about my running so this season I have already started my running training with a lot of that focus having been for Umpetha, especially with its tough portage right at the end!

“I have been running quite a bit with my brother so it will be nice to see where I am with my running this weekend,” added Ward.

The combination of Ward and Solms could prove to be a strong one however the former feels that there is definitely one other crew that could cause a few issues for them on Sunday.

“Cana Peek and Kyeta Purchase have paired up for this KZN season and we know that both of them are incredibly strong so they will be a tough pair to beat this weekend.

“We are going to have to go well although we are not going into the race with any serious expectations considering it is our first race together.

“Both Abby and I are looking forward to the new challenge though!” Ward concluded.