Johannesburg - Sports icons such as David Coulthard, Felipe Massa, John Smit, and Percy Montgomery have all competed in the infamous Water Bike Challenge.
Now the challenge that has made its way around the globe is heading to South Africa for the very first time.
The initiative launched by Princess Charlene of Monaco and her foundation will take place for the first time on African soil next weekend.
The event, which will be held at Sun City, aims to raise funds for the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation South Africa (PCMFSA).
Under the leadership of Charlene, the foundation is dedicated to transforming lives through swimming and water safety education.
This occasion marks the debut of the renowned Water Bike Challenge in South Africa, previously held with great success in Monaco.
Among the celebrities who will be competing at the inaugural South African race is cricket star AB de Villiers, boxer Kevin Lerena, Olympic medallist Bridgitte Hartley, swimming star Ryk Neethling, model Lee-Ann Liebenberg, musician Jesse Clegg, actor Siv Ngesi, DJ and model Roxy Louw and many more.
The most notable high-profile guest to attend will be Charlene, who will be supporting the foundation’s cause.
The Water Bike Challenge will feature mixed teams of professional athletes and amateurs competing on Schiller S1-C water bikes in a relay race.
Participants will cover a 1.2km loop, completing it 21 times. Each loop will feature a different participant, adding to the excitement and unpredictability of the event. Spectators and participants will have the opportunity to mingle with international sports stars, celebrities, and corporate teams.
The primary recipient of the event’s proceeds will be Lifesaving South Africa (LSA), one of PCMFSA’s long-standing partners.
With a membership exceeding 8 000 individuals, including 4 000 devoted volunteers who carry out lifeguard duties, LSA operates across 65 coastal (surf) clubs and 22 inland (pool) clubs nationally.
As the authoritative body for lifeguarding and the promotion of lifesaving sport in the country, they aim to prevent drowning incidents and nurture a thriving community of lifesaving athletes.
Louw said she was delighted to be competing at the inaugural race on African soil.
“It’s an exhilarating opportunity and to contribute to such a meaningful cause so close to my heart. It supports water safety education, a cause very close to my heart as I found myself in a high-stakes life-or-death situation saving tourists from a sinking ship in 2012.
“Being able to join forces with fellow celebrities and athletes to raise awareness and funds for the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation South Africa is a privilege I couldn’t pass up.”
Louw said she was also looking forward to meeting Charlene.
“I admire her commitment to water safety and her efforts in making a positive impact through her foundation. My husband, Sam Barton, has met her playing sevens for Monaco in Dubai, and has only spoken highly of her.”
Since its inception, more than one million people, mainly children, have benefited from the PCMFSA’s three programmes across 43 countries.
The programmes raise awareness of crucial social issues, including water safety, drowning prevention, wildlife conservation, education, and poverty.
To date, the PCMFSA has taught 2 507 children to swim and 27 242 children essential water safety skills through their 23 projects in South Africa.
The foundation also uses the transformative power of sport by giving children access to a variety of sporting disciplines through its Sport and Education initiatives like the Water Bike Challenge.
Louw said being part of an initiative that promotes water safety was very important for her.
“The Water Bike Challenge not only promises an exciting competition but, more importantly, it provides a platform to promote water safety, a cause that can save lives. Knowing that our participation supports this crucial initiative fills me with a sense of purpose and excitement.”
For the last few weeks, Louw has been getting into shape to compete at the gruelling event.
Plenty of hard work has gone into getting ready for the race, she said.
“Training can be intense, given the unique nature of the event. It requires a combination of cardiovascular fitness, endurance, and water-based skills. I hope I’ve worked hard enough to ensure that I’m well prepared. I’ve spent time on the bike and hopefully my water knowledge will also play a significant role.”
With a long list of celebrities set to compete, Louw said she was aiming to finish above all of them.
“There’s always friendly competition among us celebrities,” laughed Louw.
“But we’re all here for the same cause. It’s all in good spirits, and the most important thing is that we’re collectively supporting a great cause. I’ll certainly give it my all and hope to represent well.”
Louw said raising awareness of water safety is of paramount importance because it can save lives.
“My personal experience and my dedication to this cause have shown me the critical need for water safety education. Drowning is preventable, and by raising awareness, we can empower individuals and communities with the knowledge and skills to enjoy the water safely. This cause is profoundly significant to me on a personal level. The experience saving tourists from a sinking ship in 2012 left an indelible mark.
“It taught me that life can be unpredictable, and water safety is crucial. The Water Bike Challenge aligns perfectly with this passion, and I’m committed to using this platform to make a real difference in raising awareness and funds.”
Chantell Wittstock, CEO of the PCMFSA, said they were delighted to be bringing the infamous challenge to South Africa.
“PCMFSA is thrilled create an exciting platform for raising awareness about water safety,” said Wittstock. “The event showcases our commitment to saving lives and instilling a water safety culture in our communities. We are also deeply honoured that Princess Charlene of Monaco will attend the event, supporting the foundation’s cause. The South African edition of the Water Bike Challenge promises to be a thrilling and memorable experience.”