Lifesaving South Africa’s national squad showed their class in the water to claim first place overall and pip their Egyptian hosts at the 2022 Lifesaving Africa Championships in Alexandra, Egypt.
The championship event was preceded by the second African Drowning Prevention Conference, as the Egyptian Diving and Lifesaving Federation (EDLF) welcomed its African counterparts under the slogan: ‘Africa United to Stop Drowning’.
With a relatively inexperienced squad, South Africa dominated the water events and was the main catalyst in the Proteas finishing the championships with a combined total of 500 points. Hosts Egypt finished second on 468 points and Morocco claimed bronze with 410 points.
The Egyptians were exceptionally strong on the sand and their male squad dominated the Beach Flag event with five finishing in the top six. Their strategy to target the Proteas team paid dividends in the end but South African Chevan Clarke’s immense talent shone brightly to make the final and finish a credible second.
The South African women, though, were full value in the Beach Flags, with Ellen Kleinsmit taking the final flag to pip Hala Sedky Aly of Egypt, while Nicolette Challenor, Chelsey Cooke and Celina Isaacs all finished in the top six.
Although Morocco and Egypt caused several headaches for South Africa in the Beach Sprint individual races, the Proteas were dominant in the Beach Sprint Mixed Relay where they claimed gold.
In the Surf Race, the men gave a good account of themselves, but it was the women who stole the show as Kristin Bellingan and Tatum Botha finished first and second respectively.
The talented duo were unstoppable in the Run-Swim-Run and the Board Race with Bellingan winning both. Botha was a close second to her compatriot. Their efforts in the context of the accumulative points tally that South Africa finished with (500 points) cannot be emphasised enough.
Travis Misdorp and Naor Lombard emulated their female counterparts in the Board Race to claim a one-two victory, further illustrating how strong the South African team are in the water. Both the SA ‘A’ and ‘B’ teams in the men’s and women’s Rescue Tube Rescue finished in the top 2, with the men’s ‘B’ team causing an upset by winning their race.
Keegan Cooke overcame tough competition from the Egyptians and Moroccans to win the Men’s 2km Beach Run, and in the Taplin, both the men’s and women’s teams dominated in their respective divisions as South Africa claimed well-deserved gold medals to ensure the Proteas would return home as the reigning African champions.
*The DHL Lifesaving South Africa National Championships starts in Gqeberha on 20 March and most of Team South Africa’s African champions will be in action.
Picture: Naor Lombard (Clifton Lifesaving Club) by Michelle Slack (Lifesaving South Africa)