Paddling and open water swimming world champions, Katie Pocock from New Zealand and Melissa Gorman from Australia, will compete in the inaugural Ocean Racing Series World Championships in Port Elizabeth on Easter Saturday.
The championships – which consist of a 2km swim, 6km paddle and 5km beach run – form part of the four-day MTN Nelson Mandela Bay Splash Festival, which this year features five international watersports events.
Pocock, who hails from Auckland, has represented her country in kayaking, surf lifesaving and ocean paddling. The 24-year-old former surf ski world champion is the current ocean paddling world champion – a title she claimed in the Molokai event in May last year.
Gorman, a 31-year-old from Sydney, surprised Olympic champion Larisa Ilchenko at last August’s Fina World Championships in Rome, Italy, to win the 5km open water title.
In the men’s section, the top confirmed entrants are New Zealand’s Leyden Tolhurst (run), Australia’s Andrew Mosel (paddle) and South Africa’s 25km open water swimming champion Tyron Venter (swim).
On the home front, the names to watch out for are swimmers Michael Marais, Carmel Billson, Lauren Billson and Jessica Roux, runners Marinus Johnson and Liandré Pretorius and paddler Marc Economou.
According to the festival’s watersports coordinator, Michael Zoetmulder, the interest has been overwhelming and he expected a top-class international field of “at least a hundred” to assemble in the Friendly City.
He said the championships were borne from the success of the Axxess DSL Ocean Racing Series, which has been running in PE for the past five years. “Australia and New Zealand run similar series and we wanted to create a platform where these athletes can compete at the highest level.”
The championships also offer an opportunity for social participants. “It’s not just for the professionals. Given the disciplines, it is an event for the whole family.”
The championships kick off with the World Ocean Swim at 10am, followed by the World Ocean Paddle at 11am and the World Beach Run at noon.
Other events include the Nelson Mandela Bay Surf Ski Classic (April 2), the Bell Buoy Challenge open water swim (4th), the King of Nelson Mandela Bay elimination swim (5th) and an invitation only freestyle jet ski event.
The Splash Festival – from April 2 to 5 – also features live entertainment, beach sports, activities for kids, more than 180 stalls and a lifestyle marquee.
Although watersports entries have officially closed, late entries will be considered. Visit www.splashfestival.com for more information.
Full Stop Communications
On behalf of:
MTN Nelson Mandela Bay Splash Festival