Kwazulu-Natal’s women are expected to be the superpower at this week’s General Tire Lifesaving South African National Club Championships in Port Elizabeth.
The Western Cape’s Fish Hoek should again be the front runners in the senior surf, but it’s the Marine Surf Club that set the overall standard at last year’s national championships.
The sport’s biggest event of the year is a lifesaving extravaganza that starts tomorrow (Sunday) and finishes next Saturday.
The country’s elite athlete will be in action, with the core of the senior and junior Team South Africa World Championship squad putting club before country this time.
There isn’t a more prestigious week than this one in competitive South African lifesaving. Last year 1669 competitors from 41 clubs competed in 528 pool, surf and sand events. This year the number will exceed 1700.
General Tire, in association with Lifesaving South Africa and commercial brokers the Treble Group, for the first time in the sport’s history, combined pool and surf national championships. They also merged the Masters, Seniors, Juniors and Nippers into one mass festival.
Durban Surf’s Mandi Maritz, South Africa’s leading sprint and flags specialist, echoed the sentiments of all when she raved about the atmosphere in Port Elizabeth, at the beach and at the pool.
‘It was amazing to see so many competing in so many events in one city. It’s the type of week that showcases everything that is strong about the sport and also gives an insight into the inspiring job all lifesavers do all year round,’ said Maritz, the winner of double gold last year and also a gold medal winner at the World Championships in Adelaide, Australia.
Carmel Billson will lead the charge of the Marine Surf’s potent senior women, but the KZN explosion won’t be limited to the senior women. The Nippers of Durban Surf have been phenomenal in the last five years.
Billson is also one of a select elite who will compete throughout the week in the pool and surf events. She is arguably the most compleat South African athlete in the sport, with her success in the pool, surf and most recently at the South African National Stillwater Championships in Bloemfontein.
Veteran sprinter Ryle de Morny will be primed to do the double. De Morny won gold in the flags at the World Championships, but in the last two years he has had to settle for a silver in the sprints, with KZN’s Jonathan Rorke taking the sprint crown.
De Morny, Maritz and Nic Notten are among the world’s best who will be in Port Elizabeth. Umhlanga Rocks’ hugely talented teenager Connor Botha will also be there. Botha, who along with Durban Surf’s Milan Erasmus broke a world record at the Adelaide World Championships, has just returned from a successful campaign in Australia.
Botha and Erasmus shattered the line throw world record with a time of 9.17 seconds. The previous time was 10.65 seconds.
This year’s schedule: March 24: Masters Surf and Opening Ceremony. March 25-27: Nippers Surf; Masters, Juniors and Seniors Pool. March 28-30: Seniors and Juniors Surf; Nippers Pool.
Surf Boats are back again with eight crew competing.
* General Tire is into its third year of sponsorship of Lifesaving South Africa and was the first premier corporate to invest in the sport.@mark_keohane