Cape Town - Mandi Maritz does nothing slowly. She runs fast and thinks even faster.
She’s a World Champion Beach Sprinter, consistently the fastest on sand in South Africa and always on the alert when it comes to water safety and the fallibility of people who make the wrong decisions in water and the lunacy of those who fail to respect the power of water.
She’s been a lifeguard for 18 years, having enrolled in LifeSaving South Africa’s Nipper programme as an eight year old with the Summerstand Club.
The outdoors is her passion. Training is as much a passion. The ocean and beach are her playground and her sporting arena. It also her sanctuary and for the last 18 years has been more a home than a retreat because of her commitment to LifeSaving South Africa.
Maritz is a life saver and a world champion. Hers is a story that should have been told over and over. She is a good news story, as a person and as an athlete.
She is an inspiration and she’s another of those proud young South Africans who enhance the country’s image by extension of her personality and performance. She’s athletic cover material, but somehow the country’s sporting media messengers have failed her and the sport in which she is sprinting royalty.
Maritz headlines the women’s Beach and Flags sprint at the General Tire/LifeSaving South Africa National Championship at Camps Bay (March 29 - April 1).
She’s the best in the country and among the best in the world. She took gold in the 2010 World Championships in Egypt and in 2016 won double bronze in the Beach Sprint and Beach Flags.
She’s been dominant as a track athlete but it is on sand where her legs have powered her sustained success. There’s no South African woman faster on sand over 90 metres, although the understated nature of the sport means minimal exposure and there is always the possibility of a new kid arriving at a competition and cleaning up.
Maritz has triumphed despite the obvious funding restrictions. Traditionally there hasn’t been commercial investment in the sport on a grand scale. Competitors are self funded and those who travel to international inter club competitions do so with their own cash or through club fundraisers.
Just maybe the alignment of corporate heavyweight General Tire with LifeSaving South Africa, as an Organization and as a Sport, will ease individual financial strains and create the necessary awareness and environment in which local lifeguards can aspire to the tangibles of being the best in their sport.
There are no complaints from Maritz about perceived athletic financial hardships. Equally there is no expectation that her sprinters’ golden touch will now translate to gold bars.
She’s committed to serving the organization she has known all her life. LifeSaving South Africa is in her DNA. The sacrifice and the life lessons are integral to her growth as a women and a young leader who is ambitious in everything she does, but also grounded because of what she has chosen to do.
Maritz delights in her sporting achievements, but there is no equal to having saved another’s life.
She remembers her first life saving experience when a baby fell into a pool. The mother, she says, hadn’t even noticed, so quick was the baby’s crawl and fall.
Maritz also saved the life a man who was drunk at a party, went into the water, went under and stayed under.
She wasn’t on duty, but was alert and schooled enough to know immediately he was in trouble.
‘He wasn’t breathing when I got him out of the water and everything that I had learned as a Lifeguard came into play and fortunately the story had a good ending,’ recalls Maritz.
‘Lifesaving has taught me so much, in a social and sporting context. I have learned that anything is possible when applying a powerful mind and that talent is fed by endless commitment through ongoing training, and that my vision of achievement will become a reality when I combine skill, motivation, energy and passion.’