Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.
According to Swimming South Africa, over 70% of its population of 47.3 million are not proficient swimmers. Yet, similar to Australia's robust beach culture and abundance of great open water swimming events, South Africa has developed an extraordinarily dynamic and growing open water swimming system.
From the world’s largest open water swimming event, the Midmar Mile to the Swim Challenge Series, South African swimmers have plenty of domestic opportunities to develop the skills and strategies to become fierce competitors on the world’s stage.
Events like the Swim Challenge Series #5 in Ashanti Dam are typical where 400-meter, 1K, 3K, 5K and 10K swims are held.
Swimmers like Chad Ho, the youngest male swimmer in the Olympic 10K Marathon Swim in Beijing and a nominee for the 2008 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, can test their mettle against strong competition and then face the world.
Chad called upon the depths of his competitive spirit in 2008. Up with the leaders in the first Olympic 10K Marathon Swim qualifying swim in Spain, he was inadvertently kicked in the eye and got his cornea scratched. Quickly falling from 5th to 34th, but still finishing with a swollen and injured eye, Chad saw his Olympic dreams evaporate. Similarly, in the 2nd Olympic 10K Marathon Swim qualifying swim in Beijing, Chad was down towards the back of a 15-man pack around the last turn buoy. Calling upon reserves reminiscent of Maarten van der Weijden, Chad turned the tables in his favor this time and finished fourth to qualify for the Olympics.
It is the tough, competitive, never-say-never attitude of the South African teenager that is also reminiscent of open water swimmers worldwide. Whether it is swimming across a channel or competing in a 1K race, Chad represents the determination and perseverance that open water swimmers possess in abundance.
More details on Chad and the other nominees for the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year are posted here. Information on the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year nominees are posted here.
Photos provided by Neville Smith.
Copyright © 2008 by World Open Water Swimming Association