JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, December 7. OLYMPIC swim stars Chad Ho and Natalie du Toit dominated the 5km open water swimming competition at Germiston Lake to allow SA to end top of the medal standings, at the completion of the 9th African Swimming Championships here today.
Going into the men's race, Ho was expected to be challenged all the way by highly-rated Egyptian Aziz Mazen, but after within the kilometre, the South African had all but ensured that the gold medal would go his way. Ho finished in 58 min 39 secs, followed by Mazen (1:00.56) and Abdul-Malick Railoun in 1:00.59.
"I was expecting the Egyptian to put in a strong challenge but lost sight of him early on," said a delighted Ho afterwards.
"It's been a long year of swimming, and now with my matric and Olympic year behind me, I will take a short break before focusing on my preparations towards next year's FINA World Championships to be held in Rome, Italy."
Du Toit was just as dominant in the women's 5km event, winning in 1:04.01, with Cape Town-based national team-mate Dominique Dryding (1:06.43) and Tunisia's Sarra Lajnef (1:10.08) taking the silver and bronze medals respectively.
"The water was warm which made for great swimming conditions and I really enjoyed the swim, considering I hadn't put in the mileage that I would normally have clocked ahead of an event of this nature," said du Toit.
SA's golden medal haul in the open water swimming championships allowed the hosts to end top of the medal table with 41 medals (13 gold, 20 silver, 9 bronze), followed by Tunisia on 31 medals (13 gold, 7 silver and 11 bronze).
The hosting of the African showpiece event in Johannesburg has been made possible through the support of Telkom, the City of Jo'burg, the National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Sport and Recreation SA, Gauteng Sport and Recreation, Arena and Bestmed.
Swimmers from countries including Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Guinea, Kenya, Ivory Coast, Mauritius, Morocco, Mozambique, Namibia, Nigeria, Senegal, Swaziland, Tanzania, Tunisia, Uganda, Zimbabwe and the hosts, South Africa have been a part of the challenge for medals.
The 2010 African Swimming Championships will be held in Kenya.
Special thanks to Swimming South Africa for contributing this report.
Men: 5km: 1 C Ho (SA) 58.39, 2 A Mazen (Egypt) 1:00.56, 3 A Railoun (SA) 1:00.59, 4 I Derguaa (Tun) 1:06.42, 5 M Samb (Sen) 1:14.14
Women: 5km: 1 N du Toit (SA)1:04.01, 2 D Dryding (SA) 1:06.43, 3 S Lajnef (Tun) 1:10.08, 4 G Cherif (Tun) 1:10.19, 5 A Romero (Ang) 1:20.07