Fish Hoek’s Nick Notten was given top billing in the build-up to the General Tire Lifesaving National Championship in Port Elizabeth – and he duly delivered with victory in the toughest discipline of them all, the Men’s Open Iron.
Notten, the 2017 Lifesaving South Africa Male Athlete of the Year, refused to roll out the clichés and competitor platitudes when interviewed on the prospects of his title defence.
Notten stressed that he was not disrespectful to the rest of the field, but admitted that he never gives it any thought who makes up the field.
Notten’s inner belief is that his performance is his only controllable.
He said that he would simply focus on his own routines and ensure that his desire to compete remains greater than an ego-driven desire to win, because of the hype and expectation within the media and among the sport’s competitive community.
Notten is a lifesaver first, and his love for lifesaving, from the age of eight, means the championship titles are a bonus and a consequence of being fit and primed to contribute to a safer South African water experience.
Notten’s older brother Dominic for years was the more celebrated competitive athlete. Nick adores his brother.
But being proud and inspired never meant being awed. Nick Notten said because of the age difference, the two didn’t compete against each other in the younger Notten’s formative Nipper years.
His older brother was renowned in the sport for winning the big races on the biggest of stages.
Nick Notten was inspired by his brother’s training, professionalism, dedication and work ethic.
It’s this inspiration that has always been more significant than aspiring to upstage his older sibling.
“I always believed in my own performance, and I said pre the National Championships that if I’ve done my preparation, then I expect to win,” said Notten.
And win he did emphatically and comfortably.
Notten’s presence was as immense on Friday as it was a year ago at the National Championships at Camps Bay, but it hasn’t been quite the same for Lifesaving SA’s 2017 Female Athlete of the Year, Carmel Billson.
Billson is still having an outstanding National Surf Championships, and she enjoyed success in the Pool National Championships that have also taken place in Port Elizabeth this week.
But the dominance of the last two years, when she won a record 17 national and provincial titles in one year, hasn’t been sustained.
And it would unfair on Billson to in any way suggest she has failed. She’s still winning, but so are others who line up against her.
It’s also a compliment to the depth in the sport, and in particular to Billson’s Marine Club teammate Sasha Lee Nordengren.
Nordengren was often the bridesmaid to Billson in 2017, but in Port Elizabeth, she beat Billson to win gold in the Run Swim Run.
She beat Billson again in the Surf Swim, but it took a remarkable ‘on the line’ late push.
Durban Surf’s veteran beach sprinter and flags specialist Mandi Maritz also found her best form to deny Marine youngster Bianca von Bargen in the Flags, and on Friday, completed the double in the sprint.
Marine’s Josh Saunders and Fish Hoek’s Kenny Rice also stunned the field to claim their biggest respective National Championship Title race victories.
Saunders won the Men’s Open Surf Swim and Rice beat Fish Hoek club teammate Mark Keeling in the Men’s Open Single Ski.