Lifesaving National Club Championships profile: Connor Botha

Connor Botha (topfoto.net)
Connor Botha (topfoto.net)

With the Wimpy Lifesaving National Club Championships, to have been held in Port Elizabeth this week, Sport24 in a series of articles, profiles some of the sport's leading lights.

Connor Botha in 2019 was named Kwazulu-Natal's junior sportsman of the year. Botha was also sensational in taking several first-place finishes at the National Club Championships in 2019, including a first ever gold for a junior competing in the senior surf-swim event.

Botha stunned one of South Africa's best in Fish Hoek's Nick Notten, although Notten would have his revenge in beating Botha in the prized IronMan competition.

Botha's swim against the best seniors confirmed his exceptional talent as a junior who comfortably would transfer his potential into the seniors.

Botha's 2019 season, his last as a junior, finished with a top three placing in IronMan discipline for Team South Africa at the international junior Surf Sea Rescue competition at Durban's North Beach. Botha took a podium place competing against the world’s best from Australia, New Zealand, United States, Japan and Spain.

If ever an athlete in South African lifesaving has been primed for success, it is Botha, with his younger sister Tatum already following a similar path to glory.

Lifesaving is in the Botha genes, with father Dylan an iconic figure in South African Lifesaving, but what sets the younger Botha apart from all his peers in South Africa is that he has consciously pursued the option of a career in the sport.

The South African environment can't sustain full-time professionals in the sport of lifesaving and most of South Africa's elite lifesaving exponents combine the sport with another profession. It says much for the quality of these athletes that they continue to achieve medals at the sport's premier international events.

Australia, consistently, has been the powerhouse in world lifesaving, and that is where (Connor) Botha is testing himself on a regular basis.

Botha, in 2019, spent several months based on Brisbane’s Gold Coast, competing in several premier events. He has proven as good against the Australians, as he has done in South Africa since his debut as an eight-year old Nipper.

Botha, who swims for the Northcliffe Club in Australia and Kwazulu-Natal's Umhlanga Rocks, announced himself to Australians when winning the Queensland State IronMan.

He specialises in Board, Swim and IronMan and insists it is the IronMan competition that inspires him most.

"It is the toughest race in the sport and it is the one everyone wants to win. The Queenland win certainly has been my career highlight," says Botha, who in 2018 paired with Milan Erasmus to win break the world record in the junior line throw at the 2018 Junior World Championships.

Botha is among a minority in the sport who has excelled in the pool and surf but as he enters his first year as a senior, it is in the surf where his primary focus will be.

"Lifesaving has always been in my blood. My dad was a Springbok lifesaver and he has always been the inspiration, be it in relation to the sport or my life. He and my family have supported my move to Australia," says Botha, when speaking about his desire to be the best in the world.

He wants to win an Australian IronMan final and also be the South African IronMan champion, while his other Australia competition goals include winning the Coolangatta gold and an Australian 6-man Taplin relay.

lifesaving

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