Lifesaving has bright future in SA

Nick Notten (Photo credit: topfoto.net)
Nick Notten (Photo credit: topfoto.net)

Sport24 profiles the bright future for lifesaving in South Africa.

Australia sets the standard in world lifesaving, but South Africa’s talented elite athletes will have aspirations of a top three surf finish when the World Championship play out, either in 2021 or 2022.

South Africa’s pool challenge is that much tougher because of the emphasis on pool events from European teams.

World Lifesaving’s governing body cancelled this year’s world championships, due to have taken place in Italy later this year. No decision has yet been made on whether to abandon this year’s event in totality and focus on the 2022 World Championships.

This followed the cancellation of the Wimpy Lifesaving South African National Club Championships, which was to be held in Port Elizabeth from 19-25 March.

All events were cancelled because of the coronavirus and the escalating spread of Covid-19.

Whether the world championships continues in 2021 or reverts to the original calendar date of 2022, Team South Africa’s combination of seasoned and new generation will be a year wiser, and also a year stronger in terms of growth and preparation.

Australia, in October 2019, won the International Surf Rescue Challenge Trophy for an eighth successive time. South Africa, as hosts, finished third overall in the senior and junior categories. The event is split into three separate Test days and the most encouraging aspect of South Africa’s performance was the significant improvement from the first Test to the third and final Test.

Team South Africa, in the first Test, totalled 75 points to finish behind Australia and New Zealand. In the third Test they improved this to 85 points.

They also had to do without the seasoned Ryle de Morny, who suffered a shoulder injury in the flags event on the opening day. De Morny was favoured to take first place in the flags, which is an event he has dominated locally and internationally for the past decade. De Morny has won more world championship medals than any other South African.

The injury also forced him out of the sprint, which is another discipline in which he traditionally has excelled. In his absence, team-mate Sameer Matthews upstaged the more illustrious Australia and New Zealand sprinters to take gold.

South Africa also showed the quality of versatility in the squad to win the beach sprint relay, despite only having one beach specialist in the quartet.

The overall three-Test event was a personal triumph for Fish Hoek’s famed Notten family, with brothers Nick and Dominic in good form and sister Anna also contributing to South Africa’s standing in all three Tests.

The Notten siblings (Anna and Nick) won gold in the mixed board relay and Nick then combined with brother Dom, Matthews and Travis Misdorp to take first place in the beach sprint relay.

Team captain (Nick) Notten raved about the character of the senior squad in dealing with the setback of losing De Morny and also the excellent improvements among the juniors over the three days.

‘What was very encouraging was the way the junior selections were managed and rotated and it showed in the results. We learned a lot from the series in terms of selection, which will only make us stronger at the World Championships and in future competitions,’ said Notten.

Australian coach Shannon Eckstein applauded the improvements from South Africa and said there has never been complacency from within Australia’s lifesaving community when it comes to competing against trans-Tasman rivals New Zealand.

‘New Zealand always tests us and it is good for the sport that there are several countries that are testing us,’ said Eckstein.

‘South Africa definitely is improving and there is a lot of good talent in the South African system.’

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