Teenagers Ian Venter and Amica de Jager capitalised on good swimming conditions to record maiden wins in the River Mile feature events at the SPAR Summer Festival in the resort town of Cannonville just outside Port Elizabeth yesterday.
Pearson pupil 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 10m over Kirsten Marriott (Bay Eagle Swim) with about 250m 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, 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 the previous 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,” he said.
“At the halfway mark I felt good and managed to pull away to create a bit of a gap.”
Both Venter and De Jager said the conditions were good. Although there was a slight wind into them, they said swimming with the tide made it relatively comfortable.
De Jager was overjoyed, although she said she was on edge until the finish.
“I’m very, very happy to have won the gold medal,” the 17-year-old matric pupil said.
“It was a tough swim and I had to work really hard, but I did enjoy it.”