Teenagers Ian Venter and Amica de Jager capitalised on good swimming conditions to record their maiden wins in the River Mile in the resort town of Cannonville just outside Port Elizabeth yesterday.
St Francis Bay resident De Jager made amends for previous disappointments in the historic open water event, which was celebrating its 93rd anniversary this year.
Venter was pipped at the post by Daniel Jones last year, but this time he made no mistake and built up a lead in the second half of the race to emerge first from the water.
He was followed by close rival and Aquabear teammate Nicolas Adams, with Cullen Biddulph in third place.
De Jager, runner-up for the past two years, was in a class of her own as she created a gap of 10 metres over Kirsten Marriott with about 250 metres to go and held that until the end.
Payton Horton emerged from a bunch finish to take third place on the podium.
De Jager was overjoyed with her swim, although she said she was on edge until the finish.
“I’m very, very happy to have won the gold medal,” said the 17-year-old matric pupil.
“It was a tough swim and I had to work really hard, but I did enjoy it.”
De Jager said her plan was to go out strongly to try to build a lead. She achieved this by taking the telling lead over Marriott.
“I was always on edge because I never knew exactly how far ahead I was. After breaking away at the start, I just knew I had to keep pushing strongly until the end.”
Having identified the SPAR River Mile as one of her goals for the season, De Jager said she was chuffed to have ticked it off her list.
“I really wanted to win it this year and there is definitely a sense of achievement. It just shows that if you get knocked down, you just have to carry on until you get it right.”