JOHANNESBURG – A strong team of swimmers currently competing at the Doha 2024 World Aquatics Championships are hoping to dominate the event.
Eyewitness News spoke to one of the country’s top open-water swimmers, Amica De Jager, who competed in the 5km and 10m open-water race and the mixed relay at the championships.
“It was a dream of mine to be able to compete against the world's best open water swimmers at the World Champs and three years later, that dream was realised. Another highlight would be medalling at our SA Open Water Swimming Nationals.”
The Tuks student athlete missed out on qualifying for the 2019 World Championships, but made a comeback and qualified for 2023 and 2024. She now hopes to make the Olympic team.
“I love open water swimming, because no race is the same. There are so many different elements such as wind, waves, and temperature, to which you continually have to adapt. Nothing is controllable like in a swimming pool.”
Talking on how she protected her mental health ahead and during competitions, De Jager said it was all in God’s hands.
“I hand it over to God. I find peace in the knowledge that He is in control. This is what keeps me calm. There is also one thing that my coach always likes to remind me: 'Don't race the race before the race'. It is very important not to overthink your races. You have done the preparation, and the only thing left to do is to enjoy the race.”
The open water swimmer began her career in the pool, but watching her older sister competing in open water inspired her to switch disciplines.
“I was very scared of swimming in the open water at first. I would always swim with my head up because I was scared of what was beneath me. I started with many bank-to-bank swims, which progressed to mile swims, which led into longer race distances.”
The athlete took up surf lifesaving as a nipper, which is an effective way to teach young kids about lifesaving and safety in the sea.
“The nipper coaches helped me overcome my fear of swimming in the sea. It was a combination of elements, which helped me to find my confidence, and love for the open water.”
Becoming a nipper is the first step towards qualifying as a Big Bay Lifeguard.
Talking on the sport, De Jager says women are well represented in open water swimming.
“It is incredible to see so many tough women all competing to the best of their abilities on the world stage. There is nothing more motivating, especially to the younger generation.”
#TeamSA's female swimmers made a splash at the #BeachGames, Amica De Jager claiming 🥇 and Kate Beavon 🥈 in stunning fashion! 🏊♀️🥇🥈 A proud moment for indeed.🌟🇿🇦 #ForMyCountry pic.twitter.com/zPdfKT1jOA— Team South Africa (@TeamSA2024) June 27, 2023