Young swimmer wins gruelling race to support orphans

2014-05-13 00:00

A DURBAN pupil braved freezing water near Robben Island to raise funds for the Verulam-based orphanage, LIV Village.

Sasha-Lee Nordengen (16), a pupil at Durban Girls’ College, last week swam in the 7,5 km Robben Island Freedom Day race to raise funds to support a child at LIV Village for one month.

The village has 160 children aged from birth to 15 years old under its care. She came first in the women’s category in one hour and 45 minutes.

The distance widened by half-a-kilometre because the starting line was moved to a different area around the island. The original area was declared ecologically sensitive, because penguins were laying eggs in the area.

Sasha-Lee’s focus was not distracted by the additional half-a-kilometre.

“Mentally and physically I was prepared for the event. Although I knew the water would be cold I must say this was my big challenge. I did my warm-up a day before the actual event but still on the actual day I found the water to be a major challenge. It was freezing at 12 degrees Celsius, but I did it,” she said.

She said her mother was by her side in a boat.

Initially 17 contestants were to participate in the event but on the day the number increased to 25 participants (men and women) of different ages.

Sasha-Lee was the youngest of the swimmers, who braved the icy water with only swimming costumes on.

She said she got the fright of her life when dolphins started swimming alongside her. But throughout the gruelling exercise in the freezing water, quitting was never an option.

“I didn’t even think about it but I got really scared because the dolphins caught me by surprise. After registering what was happening into my mind I calmed down especially when I noticed that they [dolphins] were in a playful mood … I don’t know how long they were swimming with me but they disappeared in the ocean after a while.”

The race, between Robben Island and Blouberg Strand, is not for the faint hearted — a young man received medical treatment after he suffered from moderate hypothermic attack. His condition was, however, contained and he recovered after two hours under medical observation.

“I went through all this because of the love of and care I have for the vulnerable. I’ll be able to support at least one child and this will make a difference. I’ll do my best to do more in future for those vulnerable children,” said Sasha-Lee.

She managed to raise R20 000 from donations and by selling wrist bands.

Peter Bale, chairperson of the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association, said the event was well organised. “Only two swimmers aborted and [Sasha-Lee] did very well,” he said.

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