Cape Town - KwaZulu-Natal’s veteran Dylan Botha is still proving to be a champion in Lifesaving's Masters, but it’s the next generation of Botha, son Connor, 16, and daughter Tatum, 14, who are leading the way among South Africa’s juniors.
The brother/sister duo will be among the favourites to dominate at the General Tire Lifesaving South African National Championships in Port Elizabeth from April 2-7.
(Dylan) Botha is an iconic name in South African Lifesaving. He starred as an 18-year-old for South Africa in the Test series against Australia in 1992 and his career was characterised by several national and provincial titles.
(Dad) Botha will also be in Port Elizabeth, competing in the Masters, and Sport24 chatted to him about Lifesaving and the Botha family’s love for the sport and essence in helping make the water a safer place.
Q: Give us a bit of background to Connor and Tatum in the sport?
DB: Connor first rode a Malibu board at the age of 8 with Tatum (6) was there watching from the shoreline and wanting her turn. They’ve had the passion ever since. When I asked them why they keep coming back season after season and continue to put in the training and the long hours in the pool and surf, their answers were simply because they love it. They love the ocean, meeting new kids of similar interest and with them both being competitive they love that side of the sport. I have been involved in the sport all my life and also coached Nippers for the last 14 years, so it has also kept that momentum going with both of them. It was a family highlight with Connor representing the South African U19 Youth Team in New Zealand last year, but it’s their love for the sport that drives them more than just medals.
Q: Your competitive career had many highlights and is it accurate to state that your coaching career has given you as much pleasure?
DB: It’s very inspiring to work with the kids and help them build their confidence in the water. It’s incredibly rewarding. I have had nippers who on day one would refuse to go past waist deep water and then a few years later that same child becomes a national champion. It has also been great watching Connor and Tatum develop with the sport, learn about the ocean and water safety. Their achievements competitively also make me very proud as a dad.
Q: What are the benefits of combining the Surf and Pool (Stillwater) in one location over a week-long period, as is the case with General Tire’s National Championships in Port Elizabeth this year?
DB: I am hoping this will create more media hype with so many athletes from all over the country in one place to create awareness for the sport and encourage some more people to get involved in such a great movement. It gives the sport presence for an eight-day period and my hope is that it encourages new members to the sport and just to a way of life that is healthy and also gives back to the community.
*General Tire has also been nominated as a finalist in the SA Sports Industry Awards for its sponsorship of Lifesaving South Africa.
Connor Botha's achievements
Selected for the U19 South African Youth team in NEW ZEALAND in November 2017. Finished second twice.
Current U19 inter-provincial SURF SWIM champion.
2017 Junior Lifesaver of the year awarded by Lifesaving South Africa.
8 x National U15 & Nipper titles in 2017.
4 x South African Open Water LIFESAVING titles 2018 (Competitor of champs u17)
Tatum Botha's achievements
KZN High Schools swimming
8 x NATIONAL NIPPER TITLES (swims and run swim run)
2 x INTERPROVICIAL SURF LIFESAVING TITLES - Surf Swim u13 and IRON NIPPER combined U13/14 ( Wants to defend that title this year)
4 x South African Open Water LIFESAVING titles 2018
Dylan Botha’s achievements
*Competed for South Africa in Australia in 1992.
*Represented South Africa Senior team on three occasions
*National surf swim champion twice and runner up four times
*Numerous Interprovincial and provincial titles.
*Coaching Durban Surf Nippers for the past 14 years
*Managed and coached the KZN NIPPER TEAM for 2 years
Renowned South African swim coach Graham Hill on Connor Botha and Tatum Botha: "He is hard-working, humble, determined and always willing to learn, and his recent trip to New Zealand and Australia, has definitely been a great experience for him. He puts in long hours of training and makes the sacrifice over weekends. He understands the work ethic required to be the best in South Africa and among the best in the world. Tatum is very talented and driven to be one of the best juniors in South Africa. Her biggest sacrifice she says is sugar. She has also given up a very promising hockey career to focus on achieving in the surf and pool."
(Photo credit: topfoto.net)