Nikki Birkett bounces back for Pete Marlin

When the batching for the singles race at the Dischem Pete Marlin on the weekend of 30 and 31 October was released on Thursday, it confirmed the remarkable recovery from injury of East London-based paddler Nikki Birkett.

Birkett badly cut the fingers of her left hand in a swim at Keith’s Flyover before the start of the recent Fish River Canoe Marathon, necessitating sixteen stitches and ending her race with Jade Wilson.

With just three weeks to go before her hometown surfski major Birkett was left to train on her static bicycle and hope that the damaged tendons would heal, with most accepting that the accident would sideline her from the Pete Marlin.

This week the tenacious paddler tested her hand after getting the stitches removed and felt it was sufficiently recovered to allow her to race next weekend.

Birkett has also pulled off a major coup by scooping new world champion Michelle Burn as a partner for the double ski race.

“It took a while to heal, and the stitches didn’t close in a couple of places, and I haven’t got the feeling back due to the damage to some of the nerves,” explained the Team Epic/Euro Steel star.

“The good news is that it doesn’t affect my paddling grip, and I tested the hand out at our recent time trial and came away really pleased. I fact I got a PB for that time trial,” she said.

“Maybe the time I was forced to rest a bit and train on my bike is working out well,” she added.

Birkett had had a stellar year, winning a thrilling Berg River Canoe Marathon women’s title in August, matching her husband Andy’s top step on the podium in a rare feat, and was impressive in winning the Scottburgh to Brighton Surfski ultra marathon in June, finishing an impressive eighteenth overall.

“I am so excited just to be able to paddle,” she said. “We have all been looking forward to the Pete Marlin and the injury to my hand couldn’t have come at a worse time.

“I am thrilled that it has recovered well enough for me to be able to take up my place on the beach for the start, and the doubles race with Michelle (Burn) will be very special for me,” she added.