Mandi Maritz, left, was a convincing winner in the flags event at the lifesaving championships in Camps Bay. Photo: Topfoto

CAPE TOWN - KwaZulu-Natal's Jonathan Rorke stunned South Africa’s sprint king Ryle de Morny in a photo-finish in the premier 90-metre beach sprint in the General Tire LifeSavingSA National Interclub Championships at Camps Bay on Friday.

Rorke, a 20-year-old from the Scottburgh Club, dealt De Morny a rare sprint defeat after nearly a decade of local and international dominance. The Eastern Cape’s Junior Champion, Kings Beach’s Bradley Odendaal, was third.

What made Rorke’s victory the more remarkable was that it was his first National Championship appearance; having earlier this year won the beach sprint at the KZN Provincial Championships.

‘It’s still trying to sink in,’ Rorke said moments after officials confirmed a victory that had to be decided by technology because the naked eye could not separate the top two.

Magnificent sunshine greeted the athletes on the first two days of competition but the sunshine gave way to cold and rain for the sprint final.

You could say the lifesaving gods rained on De Morny’s local parade; alternatively that it was tears of joy at the birth of a new sprint sensation in the sport.

Neither De Morny nor his conqueror (Rorke) felt the wet sand or rain made a difference to their running.

“We both ran in the same conditions,” said De Morny. “It was a special run from a very special young talent. I certainly didn’t come here to place second but it’s a great result for the sport and it gives me great motivation to win back the title next year. But today’s about Jonathan and the applause must go to him.”

Rorke had never raced De Morny. ‘His reputation is huge but I couldn’t focus on his reputation. I simply had to concentrate on my run,” said Rorke, who admits he didn’t get an ideal start.

“I could have been quicker at the start but my finish is my strength and it got me there. It was tense waiting for the result to be announced.”

Rorke said the Camps Bay cold on Friday afternoon took some adjusting but the result would have added warmth to his most famous day in the sport.

Kwazulu-Natal’s golden girl Carmel Billson also needed a photo-finish to beat off Fish Hoek’s Jodi Cleworth in the single ski. Cleworth turned the tables on Billson with victory in the board rescue and Fish Hoek’s Kirsten Flanagan added to her impressive championship medal haul with second place.

Billson’s medals consolidated Marine’s second place in the seniors, with Fish Hoek surging ahead in defence of their 2016 national title.

Fish Hoek (233 points) look unlikely to be overtaken and have a 129-point lead over Marine (104). Llandudno are third with 90 points.

Durban Surf (215 points) leads Kings Beach (185) and Suncoast (126) in the juniors, with Fish Hoek (124 points) and Llandudno (122) completing the top five.

Durban Surf’s Mandi Maritz completed the flags and beach sprint double and Fish Hoek, by way of Jayden Alford-Loots and Lyle Maasdorp and Nicholas and Dominic Notten took gold and silver in the board rescue.

Nicholas Notten saw off the challenge of Summerstrand’s Daniel Jones to win the ironman title, with 2016 champion Alford-Loots ending fourth.

The Nottens also placed one-two in the single ski and Nicholas Notten completed a rewarding day with a third in the run/swim/run, which was won by Summerstrand’s (Daniel) Jones. Luke Nisbet (Suncoast Pirates) was second.

Carmel Billson also ensured there would be a new 2017 ironwoman champion as she beat off the dynamic Fish Hoek duo Kirsten Flanagan and Jodi Cleworth.

Saturday at noon there will be a celebrity challenge featuring Springbok rugby legend Percy Montgomery, Olympic relay gold medallist Ryk Neethling, Team South Africa Paralympian Achmat Hassiem and celebrated TV personality and General Tire LifeSavingSA brand ambassador Siv Ngesi.

The Interclub Nationals start at 8am. The General Tire Action Arena will be open and is open to the public. Entrance is free and there will be prizes and giveaways.

General Tire recently committed in excess of R5-million to a three-year investment in LifeSaving South Africa to complement their road safety initiatives with the crucial need for water safety.

Weekend Argus