Top Eastern Cape swimmer Hannah Haswell has set her sights on repeat victories at the SPAR River Mile Festival, which takes place at Cannonville on the outskirts of Port Elizabeth this weekend.
Last year, the 16-year-old Pearson pupil won the double mile on the opening day and topped it off with the title in the feature race on the Sunday.
“I’ve been training hard and I’ve put the time and the effort in, so I’m just hoping that I’ll be able to reflect this on the day. Overall, I just want to defend my titles.”
Haswell, who swims for the PE Amateur Swimming Club, said Amica de Jager and Jessica Canter would be her main rivals.
“These two wonderful girls have been doing so well in the 3km and 5km races at the Eastern Cape Swim Series. They were also the swimmers that placed in the top three last year.
“I’m sure they’ve also been training very hard and I’m excited to see what the result is going to be.”
Haswell, a former winner of the Jendamark Bell Buoy Challenge in Nelson Mandela Bay, said she would approach the feature race exactly the same as last year.
“To be honest, I’m just going to swim it like last year – not worrying about anybody else and focusing on my own race.
“My strategy will again be to go hard in the beginning, to get away from the masses and maintain a reasonable pace in front of my competition.
“This is what I managed to do last year, but I definitely got tired towards the end.”
All open-water swims were affected by the conditions on the day, said Haswell.
“But, if you’re strong enough, the weather shouldn’t be that much of a problem.”
She said last year’s double mile was her first and she went into it without expectations.
“I just swam the race hard without worrying about everybody else and pulled through to actually place first. It was a really good feeling knowing I had the main race the following day.”
In 2014, Haswell placed third in the mile and said she was initially worried about the additional pressure of having to repeat the performance.
“I was, however, feeling good after my win the previous day and many people said that I could very possibly come first. It was very motivating hearing this.
“Originally I didn’t go to the race expecting to win, but, after a few comments here and there, I decided that I was going to swim my hardest and try for the top three.
“When I finished I was so tired. I couldn’t really breathe properly so I wasn’t really concentrating.
“But hearing my name over the speaker as the winner gave me a new kind of energy.
“It was such a happy moment, but also confirmation of how strong I actually was and that I could achieve if I put enough effort into it.”
The festival supports the Smile Foundation and Cleft Friends. Gates open at 8am and entry is R20 per person.
More info at www.rivermile.co.za or find SPAR in Action on Facebook.