Teenagers Ian Venter and Amica de Jager capitalised on good swimming conditions to record their maiden wins in the River Mile feature events at the SPAR Summer Festival in the resort town of Cannonville just outside Port Elizabeth today.
Pearson scholar Venter (Aquabear) and Woodridge College’s De Jager (Liquid Lines) made amends for previous disappointments in the historic open water event, which was celebrating its 93rd anniversary this year.
Venter was pipped at the post by Daniel Jones last year, but this time he made no mistake and built up a lead in the second half of the race to emerge first from the water.
He was followed by close rival and Aquabear teammate Nicolas Adams, with Cullen Biddulph (Infinity Swim) in third place.
De Jager, runner-up for the past two years, was in a class of her own as she created a gap of 10 metres over Kirsten Marriott (Bay Eagle Swim) with about 250 metres to go and held that until the end.
Payton Horton (Team Watersmart) emerged from a bunch finish to take third place on the podium.
After coming so close last year, the 17-year-old Venter said he was overjoyed at nailing down the victory.
“I really wanted to get this win,” he said.
“It’s an awesome event with a lot of history and it is one of the few local swims I hadn’t won. So getting it for the first time is very cool.”
Venter said he took it fairly cautiously in the first half after having driven back from Cape Town last night where he swam in the national Grand Prix Series on Saturday.
“I wasn’t sure how I would feel, so for the first half of the race I just sat back a bit and let some of the other guys do the work.
“At the halfway mark I felt good and I managed to pull away to create a bit of a gap.”
Venter said he felt fairly comfortable, especially compared to last year when Jones edged him on the line.
“I checked every now and then on the gap and just made sure I kept my distance.”
Both Venter and De Jager said the conditions were good for swimming. Although there was a slight wind into them, they said swimming with the tide made it relatively comfortable.
De Jager was overjoyed with her swim, although she said she was on edge until the finish.
“I’m very, very happy to have won the gold medal,” said the 17-year-old matric pupil.
“It was a tough swim and I had to work really hard, but I did enjoy it.”
De Jager said her plan was to go out strongly to try to build a lead. She achieved this by taking the telling lead over Marriott.
“I was always on edge because I never knew exactly how far ahead I was. After breaking away at the start, I just knew I had to keep pushing strongly until the end.”
Having identified the SPAR River Mile as one of her goals for the season, De Jager said she was chuffed to have ticked it off her list.
“I really wanted to win it this year and there is definitely a sense of achievement. It just shows that if you get knocked down, you just have to carry on until you get it right.”