A year ago KZN’s Johnathan Rorke stunned South Africa’s most celebrated beach sprinter Ryle de Morny to win the General Tire Lifesaving National Championship at Camps Bay.
Rorke then excelled at the International Surf Rescue Challenge in New Zealand in finishing second against the world’s best beach sprinters. De Morny wasn’t in New Zealand but he will be in Port Elizabeth for the 2018 General Tire National Championships.
Can Rorke, who has only ever run against De Morny in that spectacular upset of a year ago, make it two from two in what is bound to be the highlight of the seven-day national lifesaving extravaganza.
The Sunday Tribune, as part of its build up to the National Championships, spoke to Rorke.
MARK KEOHANE: You ran a brilliant race to defeat Ryle de Morny at last year’s National Championship in Camps Bay. It was wet and the sand was damp. Conditions are expected to be very different at this year’s Nationals in PE. How big an influence will rain or a lack of rain be in determining the result?
Johnathan Rorke: A: It was an honour to compete against such a renowned and successful athlete and I feel I did run my best to achieve my victory. In terms of conditions, on the day of the race in Camps Bay the weather conditions were cold and wet and resulted in having to take extra time to warm up.
I feel that conditions definitely do have a major influence on an athlete’s performance, but the same impact will be experienced by his competitors as well.
If conditions are very different this year, rain or no rain, I don’t feel it will advantage or disadvantage my personal performance. I am going to have to be equally fast to beat him again.
MK: Your win a year ago was the first time you had competed at Nationals and raced against Ryle. There is no surprise element this year and your form, locally and internationally, carries with it expectation. How different does it feel because of the expectation?
JR: I was fully aware of Ryle’s reputation within the sport and I have always respected and admired his achievements. I knew it was going to be a challenge competing against him.
Now that I have competed against him, my victory has instilled more confidence within me, but it hasn’t changed my previous feelings.
Now that I have also achieved international recognition for myself, I understand expectations are high for me and I do feel that there is an element of pressure, but this only increases my motivation.
MK: You excelled in New Zealand late last year. You were up against the best of New Zealand and Australia. How did you find the standard of competition compared to what you have experienced in South Africa?
JR: It was much more intense because each athlete was representing his country. I felt that it was an honour to compete against some of the best champions in the sport and just being there and doing so well has definitely given me greater confidence.
MK: What was the biggest difference to competing internationally to domestically?
JR: The competition is much more experienced and unpredictable as the talent is more widespread and they are the best in their country, not just their club or province.
MK: Your beach sprinting has been exceptional in the last year. What constitutes a typical training week?
JR: I have achieved what I have so far by consistency, perseverance and determination. I have now realised through my own experience the amount of hard work and sacrifice every athlete has to invest in their talent in order to make something of it.
In terms of a typical training week, it requires me spending time focusing on the different phases of sprinting. Also, as customary with many conditioning programs, we spend time in the gym performing exercises that complement sprinting.