Q&A: SA lifesaving star Nick Notten

Nick Notten (Topfoto.net)
Nick Notten (Topfoto.net)

Cape Town - Nick Notten will be one of the main attractions in defending his title as overall male athlete of 2017 at the General Tire Lifesaving South Africa National Championships in Port Elizabeth.

The National Championships will be held from April 2-7 and Notten is one of the favourites to be included in the national squad for the World Championships in Australia later this year.

Sport24 chatted to Notten about competing with older brother Dominic, the family rivalry and the defence of his overall title.

Q: Tell us about the family rivalry as the Notten's so regularly dominate results in the Western Cape and National Championships and also the history behind the appetite for Lifesaving?

NN: Lifesaving has been a pastime of ours for some time, it is such a great way to not only stay fit, but to help out your community. Quite frankly I’m surprised that we don’t have more participation in the sport. When my brother Dominic and I started lifesaving (as Nippers) there was a large enough gap between us and we did not compete against each other. For me it was more of a case of looking up at him, and his skill level, and aspiring to be as good as he was. This was a fantastic motivation for me when I was younger, to aspire to get to his level. It also meant, with someone coming up from the younger age groups, this added to Dominic’s motivation.

Q: If you had to specialise in just one discipline, which would it be? 

NN: This is a difficult question as I have really come to enjoy the all three disciplines of the Ironman. They all bring a unique aspect into lifesaving. I would probably have to say Surfski is likely what I would specialise in if I had to because paddling opens up into many more avenues. I really do enjoy board, so would struggle to give that up.

Q: How many disciplines will you be competing in at Nationals and what is the challenge in finding the balance to ensure peak performance in your preferred discipline?

NN: At Nationals I will be competing in most of the water events, Surfski, Board, Surf Swim, Ironman, etc. This is something which comes with the territory when it comes to lifesaving. The answer to this question is different depending on your training background. I have been lucky enough to have had periods where I was able to intensively focus on each aspect. In essence I believe that it is important to put in the work to become as generally fit as possible, thereafter I need to get used to the activity and my muscle memory, along with general fitness, allows me to maintain the required performance level.

Q: Where do you expect your main competition to come from in the various races?

NN: I try not to concern myself with my competitors. Please don’t interpret that as a sign of disrespect but I focus more on my own race and my own performance and trust that to be good enough to win.

Q: How different will Port Elizabeth be to say Camps Bay or competing in Durban?

NN: The difference from Camps Bay would be the water temperature, especially where swimming is involved because wetsuits become another variable to consider. This is particularly pertinent to Ironman. PE is also known for its wins, which makes for a tougher challenge.

Q: There will be additional funding to ensure the best possible team is available to go to World Championships. How big is the step up to the South African scene to competing with Australia and New Zealand's best?

NN: I was lucky enough to compete at an Australian National Championships, and I can say that although we have a way to go before we reach that level, for the time and investment that goes into lifesaving in South Africa we are not doing too badly. In South African sports we have so much potential and with the right backing we can only improve. It is exciting to know that with the additional funding we can send a very competitive squad to the World Championships.

Q: Port Elizabeth will play host to 2000 Lifesavers in more than 500 race categories in what will be a Lifesaving extravaganza. How significant is it that the National Federation, supported by sponsors General Tire, have looked to consolidate the National Championship in one place? 

NN: I think that this is certainly a step in the right direction. Lifesaving being a comparatively small sport means that events are easily overlooked, but consolidation of all the events to a single ‘extravaganza’ allows it to be more recognizable, making people take notice which will hopefully encourage more engagement in the sport.

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