The Freedom Swim

The Freedom Swim, supported by the City of Cape Town, celebrates South Africa’s democracy and raises funds for the Vista Nova School, in Pinelands.

“April is a significant time for South Africans as we celebrate our democracy and our freedom. The Freedom Swim kicks off this time with an event that celebrates unity, strength and a shared heritage,” said Mayco member for tourism, events and economic development, Garreth Bloor.

There are two categories: solo and relay. The solo race starts from Robben Island Harbour and ends on the beach in Big Bay, Bloubergstrand.

The relay race comprises four swimmers, with only one swimmer in the water at any time.

The event was founded as the Freedom Swim in 2001, although it was run before that for several years by Vista Nova school. From this year, the event will be scheduled for one day only as opposed to two days previously.

“The Freedom Swim is a highlight of the swimming calendar because the conditions challenge athletes, with the solo swimmers getting into the water without wetsuits. Their preparation and participation requires dedication and passion, which is another reason to celebrate this event and its participants,” said Mr Bloor.

Three City staffers will tackle the swim this year: Michael Arendse and Seelan Nair from Athlone are both in the information systems and technology department. Jeanne Guild works in executive committee services.

Ms Guild, of Parow North, will be doing her first solo Freedom Swim. She was inspired after being a spectator at last year’s event, and has trained since then by doing open water swims.

“I’m very excited and nervous. I know I’ll enjoy it and I can’t wait to get into the water,” she said.

Mr Arendse, from Retreat, is doing his third solo swim, and this event is also part of his “big three” sporting events. The others are the Cape Town Cycle Tour and the Two Oceans Half Marathon.

“The swim is the ideal climax to this trio of trials that my 53-year-old body will be tested against. I think of the many failed attempts by prisoners in the last 300 years. With so many having proven the possibility to complete the swim and an icon like Theodore Yach who has done it 99 times, Robben Island will never again be used as a place to effectively imprison people,” he said.

Mr Yach will attempt his 100th Robben Island crossing from March 21.

Mr Nair has been training with Mr Arendse It will be his first swim, and while he said the preparation was fun, it had also challenged him.

“I’ve had to push myself, but I’m learning more about who I am. There have been some rough moments while training. Our preparation from January involved a weekly swim at the Sea Point Pavilion pool starting at 2km and increasing the distance by an extra set each week. By next Wednesday, we will be doing the 7.5km endurance experience necessary for the big day,” he said.

“We wish all the swimmers well in their preparation and for the crossing. Many international athletes participate and we hope everyone takes the opportunity to enjoy the natural beauty of Cape Town and spend time enjoying what the city has to offer,” said Mr Bloor.

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