Having been runner-up in the past two years, 17-year-old Amica de Jager is going for gold in the 93rd River Mile in Cannonville just outside Port Elizabeth this weekend.
Part of the two-day SPAR Summer Festival, the feature men’s and women’s mile events will anchor Sunday’s programme in Africa’s oldest open water swimming event.
Having twice been pipped at the post, De Jager is hoping to secure a first place this year.
“I’ve come painfully close two years in a row so hopefully it will be third time lucky,” she said.
In her final year at Woodridge College, she is feeling confident as she has been training for the South African nationals in open water, pool and lifesaving – all of which take place over the next two months.
The teenage star has had a successful season, having won the 5km and 10km Nelson Mandela Bay Aquatics Championship titles. She is also the 3km leader in the Aquelle Ocean Racing Series.
De Jager has adopted a determined attitude towards the race and feels her achievements this season are evidence that she is good enough to win.
Full of challenges, the River Mile is an event which keeps the swimmers on their toes, but De Jager felt this worked to her advantage.
“In open water, everything is unpredictable. The weather, current and layout are always different and changing continuously.
“I feel as though I can adapt to most situations and am motivated and determined. As an open water swimmer, you need to be adaptable and prepared for anything.
“In open water, swimmers are constantly jostling, each fighting to get in the best position to win. Strategies and tactics are always at play.”
Having represented South Africa at the lifesaving world championships, De Jager felt her hard work had paid off in achieving some of her goals.
She added that she owed much to her coach, Haydn Holmes.
“A previous winner of the River Mile, Haydn is my role model. He has helped me with every aspect of swimming and I hope that I can make him proud.
“My goal is to finally win it to become part of the history surrounding this epic race.”
Although defending champion Jess Canter is not swimming this year, De Jager said there would be several swimmers to watch, especially Kirsten Marriot.
Looking ahead to the race, she said her strategy would be simple.
“I want to put myself in the best possible position to win.”
Apart from swimming, the festival, which starts on Saturday morning, will include mountain biking and fun run events.