Canoeist Ntsiza a pioneer

Meshack Khotha

Meshack Khotha

The widely held belief that Africans are afraid of water or can't take part in water sports has been proved a fallacy by Liwalam Ntsiza, a promising river canoeist.

Likza, as he is affectionately known, wanted to prove to all and sundry that there is no danger in water.

When we caught up with the humble Ntsiza, who was busy training at Amsted Lake in Benoni, recently.

"When I was growing up there was a general notion that dams and rivers were infested by huge snakes, but this has been proven a myth," said Ntsiza.

The canoeist, who aspires to be a champion, is a member of the well-known Ekurhuleni Kyak Canoeing Club in Benoni.

To show his commitment to the growing sport, Ntsiza has been training very hard, even during the festive season.

"I have not gone on holiday, including Christmas and New Year, because I want to improve my standard,'' he said.

In his debut year in 2003 Ntsiza's boat capsized after a rapid in Kliprivier, near Meyerton.

"However, I managed to get my boat back and continued with the race to the end."

He showed remarkable improvement the following year (2004), when he won the canoe sportsman of the year award after collecting the highest points at the High Q Challenge in KwaZulu-Natal.

"I want to prove I have arrived in the more challenging senior category. If I get medals in my debut this year it will be a bonus,'' he said.

Ntsiza, who lives in Leachville, near Wattville, recently graduated from the junior to senior level. He turned turned 21 on December 7.

Born at Elliotdale in Eastern Cape, Ntsiza moved to Leachville in 1998 and completed matric at Etwatwa High School in Wattville last month.

It was at the same school where he developed an interest in sport under the tutelage of Solly Ndlovu, the canoeing development coach.

He was also motivated by teammate and gold medallist Michael Mbanjwa, one of the few successful black canoeists in the country.

"I thank Ndlovu for introducing me to this sport because it helped me to abstain from bad deeds. I learned to be disciplined, committed and to work hard,'' said Ntsiza.