The General Tire Lifesaving South Africa National Championships take place in Port Elizabeth from March 24-31. Mark Keohane profiles KwaZulu-Natal’s Carmel Billson, who for the past three years has been a star in the pool and surf.
Carmel Billson’s 2019 is proving as dynamic as her 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018.
She finished the South African 2018 season spearheading Marine Surf’s surge to national champions and a week ago she was at the forefront of Marine’s overall victory in the South African OpenWater Championships held in Bloemfontein.
Billson ranked first among the female seniors, with sisters Lauren and Natalie completing the family podium placings. Marine’s Teegan Hardwick made it a top four finish for Marine among the best of the female seniors.
The men and nippers were equally potent and Marine triumphed among the masters, the nippers and overall.
The strength of Marine at the next weekend’s Nationals will be from their women, be it in the pool or surf.
There isn’t stronger than Billson, who last year combined her excellence in the pool and surf to win 15 titles. The previous year she won a record 17 provincial and national titles.
Marine teammate Sasha-Lee Nordengen Corris was crowned 2018 National Overall Female winner but Billson’s effort in the pool and surf was remarkable in the first year of the pool and surf championships being held in the same week in the same city.
It was a lifesaving extravaganza unrivalled in the history of the sport in South Africa, with 1500 competitors competing in more than 500 events.
This year the number could be closer to 2000 but no matter the number it is unlikely to change the fact that currently there is nothing to compare to Marine’s women.
Marine’s female challenge was so dominant in 2018 that seven of the 10 selections in the Open Women’s National Squad were from Marine. The Super Seven were: Billson, Nordengen Corris, Kyeta Purchase, (Teegan) Hardwick, Haley Nixon, Kristin Bellingham and Bianca von Bargen.
KwaZulu-Natal’s power among women would be further reinforced with the selection of Durban Surf’s Mandi Maritz and Amica de Jager, as the provincial representation totalled nine out of a national squad of 10.
Marine won the overall pool and surf combined Championship in 2018, with Fish Hoek the title winners in the seniors and juniors surf. However, 472½ points separated Marine from Fish Hoek for the overall title.
Billson, who was named the General Tire Lifesaving South Africa Female Athlete of the Year on three consecutive occasions, attributes her success to a weekly regime that can include anything from 10 to 17 sessions.
“These sessions include swimming, paddle board, gym, plyometrics, surf ski, kayaking and track running,” she said of her dedication to a sport she has been doing competitively since 2008.
She is also currently combining her education with her lifesaving and is researching the epidemiology of musculoskeletal injuries in competitive lifesavers in KwaZulu-Natal. This is part of her focus in Chiropractic.
“I have a passion for my studies as much as I have for the sport,” she said.
Expect her to revel in Port Elizabeth’s water. Expect her Marine club teammates to do the same.