The 33rd annual South African Masters swimming championships came to a thrilling conclusion over the weekend at the Joan Harrison Complex in East London, with defending club champions, Cape Town Masters swimming club, cleaning up at the awards.
In the extremely exciting club battle CT Masters just managed to beat out the challenge of local hopes Amakhosi Masters, with just 58 points separating the two clubs.
CT Masters ended on 3655 points, with Amakhosi second on 3597 points and Coelacanth Masters from Pretoria in third on 2825 points, showing that it was virtually a two-horse race throughout.
“We are delighted. We thought that with their numbers they were going to take it, but it was a fantastic effort from our swimmers in the end,” said CT Masters co-club captain, Leigh Gannon.
“It was somewhat unexpected. We knew we would be close but we thought we would just miss out,” said fellow co-club captain Oliver Gilbert.
Despite missing out on the overall club title, Amakhosi will be proud of their showing, especially after giving the defending champs a great run for their money and due to the fact that Amakhosi had the most new Masters swimmers taking part out of all the clubs involved.
“It was so close, but our motto is fun, friendship and fitness, so it’s not all about winning.
“I believe we gave it our all and we really tried our best and I am proud of the team,” said Amakhosi Masters president, Kerry Skidmore.
“If you look at Cape Town Masters they are the top club team in the world. They went to the World Games in Russia and were the top club, so for us to just lose to them here goes to show that when you get the troops together you can nearly beat the best.”
The club will also be proud of long serving local swimming coach Joe Hillstrom, who was also recognised on the night as he received the Spirit of Masters Swimming Award.
The two major individual awards of the championships both went to CT Masters swimmers, with Tim Shead winning the Victor Ludorum Award and Cecilia Stanford taking the Victrix Ludorum Award.
Both swimmers were in irresistible form throughout the event, winning all the races in their respective age groups.
“I was hoping to come here and swim well but I had surgery a few weeks ago, so I didn’t really think I had a chance of winning the Victor Ludorum, but I guess I got lucky,” said Shead.
“This is my 31st masters. I just love it. It’s just a magic time with magic people and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.”
Stanford emphasised the importance of Masters swimming and expressed her joy at her good showing.
“I was very happy with the win. I wasn’t expecting it so it was a really nice surprise,” said Stanford.
“Masters swimming is such a big part of my life and keeps me motivated and I just want to keep doing well and keep swimming.”
With the awards ceremony having taken place on Saturday night, yesterday saw the last events taking place, with the 1km and 3km open water swimming events at Wriggleswade Dam, with the winners being recognised at next year’s Masters awards.
In the 1km race overall honours went to Amakhosi’s Shaun Barson, who was the first male to finish, with Nelspruit Masters Michele Esterhuizen as the first female, while in the 3km race Coelacanth’s Gary Albertyn finished first for the men while CT Masters Tarryn Stanford was the first woman to cross the line.
In all an enjoyable Masters event was had by all and Pretoria will have a lot to live up to when they host the next edition of the competition next year.
“It was unbelievable. There isn’t one person who is leaving East London without a positive memory and I think we took Masters swimming to another level,” said Skidmore.