Lifesavers lift SA spirits with two World Games medals

By Mark Etheridge in Cali, Colombia Two medals within the space of 20 minutes had Team South Africa’s World Games campaign up and running on Saturday. Lifesaving was the... Read more

By Mark Etheridge
in Cali, Colombia

Two medals within the space of 20 minutes had Team South Africa’s World Games campaign up and running on Saturday.

Lifesaving was the code that first came to the medals party as Armand Marais first took bronze in the 50-metre manikin without fins. He clocked 30.52sec as Stefan Costamanga of Italy won with a 29.43 world games record.

And he had barely had time to towel off and allow his medal moment to sink in when he was playing a crucial part in the men’s 4x25m manikin relay bronze medal for the South Africans.

The team will now sleep a bit easier now that the first (and not the last) medals have been secured after just two days of competition.

At the last Games in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan four years ago, the first of three medals only arrived on the penultimate day of the Games. Again it was lifesaving who provided a medal, with barefoot waterskiing (silver) and Sevens Rugby (bronze) also reaping reward.

“I’ve had this goal for eight years,” said an emotional Marais afterwards. “I’ve won medals at all the other big lifesaving competitions but the guys have always told me that a World Games medal is the big one. And they were right… I’ve still got goosebumps at the whole experience.

“If you’d told me this morning that I’d win two medals in about 20 minutes I wouldn’t have believed you. It’s just unreal.”

On his actual swim, Marais, who suffers from the degenerative eye disorder, Stargardt’s Disease: “I just kept on saying to myself “just don’t come fourth, just don’t come fourth”.’

But the 23-year-old Pretoria resident isn’t done yet. “I’m only 23 and now what I want to do is change the colour of that medal. Now that I’ve got a World Games medal I’ve taken a bit of pressure off myself.”

In the 4×25 manikin relay it was Paul van Achterbergh who led the team out and he handed over to Barjo van Niekerk┬á (a World Games veteran at 29), then to the medal-winning Marais and then on to the junior of the team, Dolfie Visser.

The team clocked an SA record of 1:11.72 and took four seconds off their entry time and a further three seconds off the preliminary round time.

Visser, still in Grade 11 at DF Malan Hoër Skool in Bellville, Western Cape, paid tribute to veteran Van Niekerk.

“Barjo was brilliant. He gave me lots of tips and also kept me calm. We’ve done it a million times in training but the race went by so fast. Armand caught up well on the third leg and when the changeover went well, it was just me and that black line! I didn’t know that we had got onto the podium until they signalled to us as we got out of the pool.

“This has been in our dreams for a long time now but we only had three training camps of┬á a weekend each because all the guys live in different parts of the country.”

Earlier, Nicole Rossouw joined cue-sports counterpart Peter Francisco on the sidelines as she went down 9-2 in the women’s round of 16 in the 9-ball competition.

And archer Gabriel Badenhorst also fell by the wayside. After going through the ranking round he came up against India’s Ritul Chatterjee and went down 145-148.

Sunday’s action sees only the women’s tug-of-war team competing. And dare we say it, but they are a real medal hope after the vast improvement from the team of 2009 in Kaohsiung City, Taiwan.

They take on four other teams instead of the original five opponents after China withdrew their team in protest at Chinese Taipei taking part. The latter will be Team SA’s toughest opponents but it’s hoped that with the rest of Team South Africa planning to attend and throw their weight behind the team, a third medal can be realised.

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