Cape Town - Chevan Clarke stunned world champion Ryle de Morny in the Men’s Flags but De Morny responded with victory over Clarke in the beach sprint final at the DHL Lifesaving South Africa National Championships.
Saturday’s blustering wind conditions had resulted in the sprints and flags events taking place on Sunday, but such has been the form of Clarke that he would have backed himself to upstage his long-time teammate and friend.
Clarke, De Morny and Taariq Hassiem historically have always competed for False Bay but the trio of dominant flags specialists wore the colours of Durban Surf and the Kwazulu-Natal club got the due reward with the trio taking all three podium places.
The fact that they did was not the surprise because they have been so strong as a trio over the years, but invariably the flags gold has gone to De Morny, who won gold at the World Championships in Adelaide, Australia in 2018.
Clarke, in the build-up had expressed confidence of a victory and De Morny had reinforced the former’s belief with an acknowledgement that Clarke was in the best shape of his career.
Still, De Morny is a winner and mate or teammate, he competes to win gold, so when he lost out to Clarke in the flags, it was inevitable that he would find that something extra to retain his national beach sprint title and the crown as South Africa’s fastest man on sand.
Durban Surf’s Melissa Corbett won the women’s flags and then beat defending champion Mandi Augustyn into second place. Augustyn injured her right arm in the build-up to the National Championships but competed in the beach sprint with her arm in a sling and remarkably finished second.
Saturday’s Championship opening day at Kings Beach in Gqeberha belonged to 22 year-old Durban Surf’s Amic de Jager, who defied the conditions and blew the opposition away in winning four golds, including the prestigious Iron Woman.
De Jager completed her quartet of golds in the most inspiring two hours of competition, winning the Iron Woman, the Surf Swim, Female Board, the Single Ski and added a silver in the Run/Swim/Run.
The intense wind meant Saturday’s schedule had to be adjusted before the organisers called an early time to events.
But nothing could stop De Jager’s charge to gold, not even Umhlanga Rocks’s in-form Sasha-Lee Corris, who placed second to De Jager on four occasions before exacting revenge with an outstanding victory in the Run/Swim/Run.
De Jager, in 2017, won the SA Junior Lifesaver of the Year award and in 2018 was the only South African to make it into the Interclub Iron final at World Rescue in Australia in 2018, but her performance on Saturday ranks as her finest as a senior in the National Championships.
And it had to be something spectacular to beat the challenge of 2018 Team South Africa captain Corris, who in 2019 won the Surf Swim at the international Sanyo Cup in Japan.
Wade Krieger made it an Iron double for Durban Surf in taking the Men’s title, with Fish Hoek’s Cheyn Haupt and Mark Keeling second and third respectively.
Keeling, in the Single Surf Ski, got the better of Krieger in taking gold. Krieger finished second.
Hosts Kings Beach also had good reason to cheer when Cullen Biddulph and Keegan Cooke dominated the Run/Swim/Run and the Open Surf Swim. Biddulph won the former and his club teammate took gold in the latter.