South African watersports in 2013

18 December 2013

South Africans sparkled in watersports in 2013, with the country’s swimmers, surfers, canoeists and paddle-skiers proving themselves once again to be among the best in the world.

Fina World Championships

Chad le Clos, the SA Sportsman of the Year in 2012, followed up his gold and silver medal at the London Olympic Games with two gold medals at the Fina World Championships in Barcelona.

He captured the 200 metres butterfly title, which he had also won at the Olympics, in 1:54.32, and then backed that up with a stunning victory in the 100 metres.

Lying fifth after the first 50 metres, Le Clos, in typical fashion, flew home over the second 50m to take victory in a South African record of 51.06 seconds.

“After winning the 200m, people were saying that the time was not fast. So I just wanted to prove to everyone that I could win the 100 and do a fast time,” Le Clos told Sapa after securing gold. “It was great to win the 200m, but the 100m race is very special to me. Ryan Lochte came in and he really wanted to win. That gave the race an extra flavour and I think it was one of the biggest races of the night.”

Olympic champion in the 100 metres breaststroke, Cameron van der Burgh, claimed gold in the 50 metres in 26.77 seconds, despite suffering from flu, while his training partner Giulio Zorzi snatched bronze in a personal best time of 27.04 seconds.

Fina World Cup

In the Fina World Cup, Le Clos demonstrated his versatility and walked away with his second overall title in the series. His highlights included setting a world record of 1:49.04 in the 200m butterfly in Eindhoven.

Roland Schoeman performed strongly and finished fourth in the overall standings. He was untouchable in the 50m breaststroke, going through the season undefeated in the event.

Myles Brown, competing in middle to long distance freestyle events, made a big step up, finishing eighth in the overall standings. His results included a win over Tunisian great Oussama Melloui in the 1 500m, which Brown won in a South African record 14:36.19, lopping almost three seconds off the previous mark, which Ryk Neethling had set in 2000.

MBE for Natalie

Former Paralympic star Natalie du Toit was honoured by the Queen of England, receiving an honorary MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for her services to Paralympic sport.

Midmar Mile

The Midmar Mile continued to set the bar as the world’s largest open water swimming event. Race organiser Wayne Riddin was nominated for the World Open Water Swimming Association’s Man of the Year Award, while Lorna Cochran, who completed her 15th Midmar Mile at the age of 89, was nominated for the Woman of the Year Award.

Chad Ho, who missed out on a medal in the 5k open water swim at the Fina World Championships by just one place, won the Midmar Mile for a record fourth time in succession.

Swimming Britain

Sean Conway, meanwhile, became the first ever person to swim the length of Great Britain, undertaking and completing a challenge that some had suggested would lead to his death.

“My supposedly two-month swim took me four-and-a-half months as I battled 12 degree water, jellyfish stings in the face and 20-foot waves,” he said in an e-mail to SAinfo after completing the challenge.

Canoe Marathon World Championships

South African paddlers starred at the ICF Canoe Marathon World Championships in Copenhagen, with Hank McGregor winning the men’s K1 title for a third time, while Andy Birkett won the under-23 men’s race, edging out fellow South African Brandon van der Walt for the gold medal.

Marion Young won a K1 gold medal at the Masters World Championship and then teamed with Angela Scruby to claim K2 gold in her age group. Len Jenkins senior also won K1 gold, and Hank McGregor’s father, Lee McGregor, teamed with Allan Hold for an age group victory in K2 competition.

Dusi Canoe Marathon

History was made in the Dusi Canoe Marathon when Lance Kime claimed the men’s title and his sister Robyn won the women’s race. Andy Birkett and Sbonelo Zondi, meanwhile, took over 17 minutes off of the Non-Stop Dusi record.

Hank McGregor and Grant van der Walt claimed a fourth successive K2 victory in the Fish River Canoe Marathon.

McGregor showed his class as an all-round paddler by teaming with Jasper Mocke to win the Vaal Canoe Marathon, which served as the South African River Championships. He and Mocke followed that up with a victory in the Ozzie Gladwin, South Africa’s premier one-day canoe race, and McGregor then travelled to Hong Kong, turning his hand to surf ski racing, where he won the Dragon Run.

Ocean Racing World Championships

South Africa also shone at the first ever Ocean Racing (surf ski) World Championships. Sean Rice claimed the men’s title and Michele Eray the women’s honours. There were six South Africans in the top 10 of the men’s race, while Michelle Burn and Nikki Mocke completed an all-South African podium in the women’s event.

Grant van der Walt was the first under-23 finisher, Kenny Rice the first junior, and Kirsten Flanagan first among the junior women.


Jordy Smith and Bianca Buitendag led the way among South African surfers.

Smith’s year was highlighted by a victory in the Billabong Pro Rio, his third victory on the World Championship Tour, but his first outside of South Africa.

“This win feels unbelievable,” Smith said after claiming the title. “It’s another dream come true. I knew I could win a World Tour event, but I had to prove to myself that I could do it away from South Africa.”

In her first year on the World Championship Tour, Buitendag showed she belonged by finishing the year ranked eighth in the world, with a best result of third in the Colgate Plax Girls Rio Pro at Barra da Tijuca Beach in Rio de Janeiro in May.

The strength and depth of South African surfing was further shown in a number of international team competitions.

Team successes

Team South Africa were crowned the International Surfing Association (ISA) World Team champions and captain Shaun Joubert won the men’s title at the ISA World Surfing Games in Panama in May.

South Africa also placed second at the ISA World Masters Surfing Championships in Montanita, Ecuador, where Greg Emslie and Chris Knutsen won gold medals, and Andre Malherbe and Heather Clark silver medals.

At the ISA World Longboard Surfing Championships in Huanchaco, Peru, Simone Robb was crowned women’s world champion, while South Africa finished second behind France in the team competition.