20 December 2010
Blessed with a beautiful coastline almost 3 000 kilometres long, South Africa is a watersports playground – and in 2010 the country’s watersport athletes shone in a variety of disciplines.
Durban surfer Jordy Smith made the headlines for a brilliant year on the ASP World Tour which finished with him as runner-up to the legendary Kelly Slater for the world title.
He delighted South African fans by winning back-to-back events in the country, capturing the Mr Price Pro and then the six-star-rated Billabong Pro at Jeffreys Bay, one of the world’s most revered surfing venues.
In addition, he placed second in the Quiksilver Pro on Australia’s Gold Coast and was also runner-up in the Rip Curl Pro in Peniche, Portugal.
By claiming second spot behind the 10-time world champion Slater, Smith relegated 2007 and 2009 ASP World Tour champion Mick Fanning to third place.
Surfing in the snow
In April, Royden Bryson scored a superb victory in amazing conditions at the six-star-rated O’Neill Coldwater Classic in Thurso, Scotland. During the event there was the remarkable spectacle of surfers catching waves while snow fell about them.
After claiming victory, Bryson commented: This was one crazy day. I’m not sure if I’ll ever get a chance to surf in the snow again! So, on top of winning, this makes it one very special day for me.”
Big wave surfer Chris Bertish scored the biggest win of his career when he captured the Mavericks Surf Contest at Half Moon Bay in California.
The conditions were epic, with waves estimated to be in excess of 40-feet high. There was even an incident where a monster wave knocked down a viewing platform, resulting in serious injuries to 13 people, including broken limbs.
Bertish, though, gutsed out a tough win and remarked afterwards: I took the worst beating of my life out there.”
Rider of the Year
Grant “Twiggy” Baker, a winner of the Mavericks Surf Contest in 2006, and acknowledged as one of the world’s leading big wave chargers, was rewarded for his efforts at the Billabong XXL Big Wave Awards. He won the Ride of the Year and with it pocketed a cheque for $50 000.
In November, both Bertish and Baker received invites to the most prestigious big wave event in the world, the 2010/11 Quiksilver in Memory of Eddie Aikau.
It wasn’t just the younger generation of surfers that excelled, either. South Africa finished second in the 2010 ISA World Masters Surfing Championship at Santa Catalina in Panama, picking up three gold, one silver and two bronze medals.
Cowes Week win
Also out on the oceans, in August, for just the second time in the 168-year history of Cowes Week, one of the largest and most prestigious sailing regattas in the world, a South African yacht, Jeraboam, won its class.
Competing in the very competitive J-109 class, the team from the Royal Cape Yacht Club raced to an easy class victory with a race to spare.
The Durban Surfski World Cup underlined South Africa’s status as a powerhouse of the surfski world, with Dawid Mocke outsprinting Matt Bouman to take victory. Mocke’s brother, Jasper, rounded out the podium places.
South Africans also claimed all the podium places in the women’s event, with Nikki Mocke winning from Michele Eray and Michelle Eder.
South African swimmers continued to prove themselves world class competitors, excelling in the Fina/Arena World Cup and the Commonwealth Games.
They led South Africa’s medal push at the Commonwealth Games in Delhi, winning 16 of the 33 medals the country totalled. South Africa won 12 gold medals to finish fifth on the medal table and seven of those came from three swimmers.
Natalie du Toit led the way with three victories: in the S9 50 and 100 metres freestyle, as well as in the 50 metres butterfly.
Teenager Chad le Clos announced himself to the world with victories in the 200 metres butterfly and the 4 by 100 metres individual medley.
Cameron van der Burgh, meanwhile, confirmed himself as the world’s fastest man in the breaststroke, taking victory in both the 50 metres and 100 metres against very strong opposition.
Roland Schoeman, although not a winner in any event, deserves special mention. He won three medals to take his Commonwealth Games haul over the years to 11.
South Africans also shone in long-distance events for the first time since Ryk Neethling, in the days before he turned his attention to shorter events: Wendy Trott won a silver medal in the women’s 800 freestyle and Heerden Herman picked up silver in the men’s 1 500 freestyle.
Natalie du Toit
Natalie du Toit also starred at the International Paralympic Committee’s Swimming World Championships in Eindhoven, Holland, by winning six gold medals, one silver and one bronze.
Her long-time excellence was recognised when she was named the Laureus World Sportsperson of the Year with a Disability at a gala ceremony in Abu Dhabi in March.
In South Africa, the Midmar Mile, which in 2009 had entered the Guinness World Records as the largest open water swimming event in the world, produced even more finishers in 2010, with over 14 200 swimmers making it compared to the 13 755 of the previous year.
Hank McGregor wrote his name into the record books by winning the 228-kilometre long Berg River Canoe Marathon, regarded by some as the toughest canoe marathon in the world, for a record seventh time.
On a sad note, the paddling community said goodbye to Dusi legend Graeme Pope-Ellis, who won the race an incredible 15 times in three different decades. He was tragically killed in a farming accident.
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