The General Tire Lifesaving South Africa National Championships take place in Port Elizabeth in the last week of March. Mark Keohane, in Independent Media’s build up to the event, profiles those athletes expected to dominate.
There is no one female in South African lifesaving who can compare with Durban Surf’s Mandi Maritz when it comes to consistency and continued excellence in the sprint and flags disciplines.
Maritz is the best the country has ever produced in the sport and has been among the finest internationally over the past decade.
Maritz will again be one of the headline acts at the sport’s premier annual competition. She has confidence and form on her side, having shown her class with a silver medal at last year’s World Championship in Adelaide.
Her success added to the gold she won at the 2010 Championships in Egypt and the double bronze (sprint and flags) at the Championships in 2016.
Success and awards are part of the Maritz sporting DNA, and in 2017 she was honoured with the prestigious President’s Award for her achievements in the sport and her contribution to lifesaving in South Africa.
Lifesaving SA president Dylan Tommy said Maritz’s achievements set her apart from most and that she was a unanimous choice.
Maritz has enjoyed competing at the International Sanyo Bussan Cup in Japan. But her international feats have never diminished her desire to bring her A-game to the South African nationals.
“It’s the highlight of our season,” said Maritz. “And the atmosphere in Port Elizabeth last year was brilliant. It makes such a difference for one venue to host the surf and pool competition and bring together nearly 2000 lifesaving athletes from Nippers to the Masters.”
Maritz, typically, isn’t underestimating the challenge of the younger Bianca von Bargen. Maritz doesn’t need reminding that Von Bargen knocked her over in the KZN National Championships in 2018 but then the youngster couldn’t sustain her form at the 2018 National Championships, where Maritz took double gold.
Team South Africa’s juniors finished fifth at the World Championships in Australia, which was their best return in the history of the competition. Remarkably, every one of the squad of 12 won a medal.
All 12 will be competing in Port Elizabeth, with the Strand Lifesaving Club’s Kiera Bester, who won gold in the SERC and also bronze in the Oceanwoman relay, among the favourites to be a multiple winner.
Bester, a 16 year-old Grade 11 student at Somerset College in the Western Cape, was active in the sport as an eight year old and won her first national title for kneeboard as a 10-year-old in 2012.
She revelled at the 2018 General Tire LSA National Championships in claiming gold in the Ironwoman (also known internationally at the Oceanwoman) in the junior section.
General Tire is into its third year as Lifesaving South Africa’s primary sponsor and it was General Tire’s initiative, along with the Treble Group, to combine the junior and senior pool and surf national championships and turn the occasion into a week-long festival of South Africa’s finest lifesaving talent.