By Neville Smith
DURBAN, South Africa, May 3. THE South African National 5k Open Water Swimming Champion, Shaun Diaz claimed the title in convincing fashion at the inaugural Mr. Price Ocean Swim which took place in torrid conditions at Durban’s North Beach on Sunday.
A cool and overcast morning saw a field of 210 swimmers line up for the event that was formally known as the Clover Surf Swim until the sponsors terminated their association last year.
Conditions were far from perfect at the 8.00 am start with a stiff southwestern flattening the surf and rain on the horizon
National clothing and lifestyle group Mr. Price have taken over the sponsorship of the event and are keen to expand the concept into a nation al three-event series. Prize money for this event was R35, 000.00. The event was sanctioned by Swimming South Africa and SA Lifesaving.
With the last Clover Surf Swim male winner Terence Parkin at the High Performance Center in Pretoria attending a NOCSA camp, the talented Melissa Corfe and Troyden Prinsloo in Morocco at the African Swimming Championships, along with three time National 5k Champion, Kenneth Smith still recovering from a shoulder injury the event was wide open.
With a run in start, the event was a two-lap event over a course that was spectator friendly. Early leaders Wayne Thompson and Brett Challenor took full advantage of their knowledge of local conditions and used the rip at the side of the pier to sweep into an early lead. They were overhauled by a group headed by a tenacious Shaun Diaz at the first buoy, who also used his knowledge of local surf conditions as he powered toward the first of three hotspots at the 800m mark.
Holding his advantage, Diaz had the chasing pack snapping on his heels. His brother Paul, Schoeman, Charlton Lawson, Anton Storm, Matt Bowman and Byron de Waal were holding sway.
Shadowing this group was Kristi Kuhlmay who went on to emulate Diaz by claiming all the hotspots.
After the first lap Diaz was ahead but competition was fierce as the competitors headed out toward the back line for the last time.
A red eyed Charlton Lawson, who recently claimed the 800m freestyle title at the Telkom SA National Aquatic Championships and a member of the national OWS elite squad decided to call it a day after 2k.
“I lost my goggles going out of the transition and the salt really burned my eyes going out to the first buoy, so I decided to call it a day” a dejected Lawson commented as he watched his teammates and training partners Shaun and Paul Diaz consolidate their positions at the head of the pack.
There were no surprises in the men’s event with Shaun claiming his first Mr. Price Ocean Swim title in a time of 38:38 well ahead of the field. Despite tripping over a sand bank Paul claimed second place in a time of 39,06 with the promising Riaan Schoeman (39,16) close behind.
The chasing pack was headed by the experienced Anton Storm and Byron de Waal. Both swimmers were credited with a 39,57.
“The surf was all up and down, but not so bad when you had the wind at your back” a pumped up Diaz commented after the race.
“ I went out fast deliberately to create the gap and give me the advantage”
The first lady home was Kendall Artz who had shadowed the dynamic Kristi Kuhlmey for the entire event to claim victory in an impressive 40:58 and securing 8th place overall. Kuhlmey, who has recently returned from a swim scholarship in the Sates, posted 42:03 while former national sprint ace, Stacey Bowley was always in the loop with a 42,07.
“We were swimming stroke for stroke almost the whole race,” a delighted Artz said after the event,” and I just could not get up speed for the hotspots.
“That didn’t worry me too much and I gave it all I had left at the end to ensure that I was on that wave at the finish!”
National open water elite squad members, Melanie Greyling (4th) (42,29) and Gabi Bombardieri (7th) (44,21) claimed the top spots in the junior section.
At the prize giving which was moved from the beach venue to the Durban Surf LSC Clubhouse due to inclemment weather, Jon Whittle from the sponsors confirmed that the tradition of awarding swimmers who achieve participation landmarks would continue. Swimmers receive a customized event windbreaker.
Anton Berry and Mike “Buffy” Arbuthnot veterans of 31 Midmar Miles, notched up their 25th and 20th swims at the 3,2 Surf Swim on this the inaugural Mr. price Ocean Swim in Durban.
Results of the Mr Price 3.2km Ocean Swim at North Beach on
1 Shaun Dias (Mr Price Seagulls) 38 min 38 sec,
2 Paul Dias (Mr Price Seagulls) 39:06,
3 Riaan Schoeman (King's Park) 39:16,
4 Anton Storm 39:57,
5 Byron de Waal (Mr Price Seagulls) 39:57,
6 Brad Storm 40:01,
7 Nicholas Wilson (KP) 40:12,
8 Carl Storm 41:18,
9 Julian Taylor (DS) 41:56,
10 Rohan Jacobs (Mr Price Seagulls) 42:11
1 Kendal Artz (DS, 8th overall) 40:58,
2 Kristi Kuhkmey (DS, 11th) 42:03,
3 Stacey Bowley (DAS, 12th) 42:07,
4 Melanie Greyling (Westville, 14th) 42:29,
5 Jenna Worlock (Pirates, 15th) 42:32,
6 Candice Crafford (DS, 17th) 43:36,
7 Gabi Bombardieri (WV, 19th) 44:21,
8 Nicola Durrheim (23rd) 45:49,
9 Cartherine Bilro (SG, 25th) 47:20,
10 Beverley McCarney (29th) 48:06