The South African junior open water team returned from the World Championships on Tuesday after a promising campaign in the Seychelles.
Connor Buck was the pick of the bunch, producing a top-10 finish in the men’s 10km event. The Durban swimmer was engaged in a battle for fourth place right to the end of the race, eventually finishing sixth in 1:59:07.60, with just a 10th of a second separating him from fifth place.
The title went to Hungary’s David Betlehem who put in a dominant performance to win in 1:53:10.30, over four and a half minutes in front of his closest rival.
“This was my third big international competition and my second junior worlds so I knew what to expect and I knew my competition quite well. Before the race I was thinking top 10 was a realistic target,” admitted Buck, who finished second at the senior SA Open Water Championships earlier in the year and claimed this year’s Midmar Mile title.
“I was very happy with my sixth-place finish. It’s my best ever finish in an international race by a long way. I’ve been improving every time I compete internationally and I’m very pleased with the progress.”
Speaking about the race itself, the 19-year-old added: “My plan was not to go out too hard. I’ve made that mistake a number of times in the past. I knew David Betlehem would be going out fast and it would be a suicide mission to try and stay with him. So my plan was to control my pace for at least the first half of the race and sit in the pack.
“I picked up the pace in the last lap. Unfortunately there was too much of a gap to catch up with the Italians but I am still satisfied with how I executed my plan although there are one or two aspects I could improve on,” added Buck, whose teammate Joshua Ashley finished 25th in the same race in 2:04:22.80.
Meanwhile, 15-year-old Connor Barnardo finished 25th in the men’s 5km race in 54:13.40 while Shane Ramsay was 34th in 58:47.70. American Nathan Szobota took the gold in 48:50.90. Keegan Wright was 28th in the men’s 7.5km event in 1:23:23.10 with Sven van der Linde 30th in 1:28:39.70. Hungary’s Hunor Kovacs-Seres won in 1:16:02.10.
On the women’s side, SA swimmer Katie Horne finished 13th in the 5km in 53:06.60 while Bailey Forrest was 20th in 56:48.60. The race was won by American Claire Weinstein in 51:52.40. Mykae Forrest finished 18th in the women’s 7.5km race in 1:28:08.10 while Hannah Neilson was 26th in 1:30:22.10. That race was won by 16-year-old American Katie Grimes in 1:22:38.50.
In the women’s 10km event, SA’s Catherine van Rensburg finished in 14th place in 2:07:12.90. Hungary’s Bettina Fabian took the title in 2:03:11.40. Van Rensburg also teamed up with Ethan Bailey, Mykae Forrest and Jarden Eaton in the mixed 4x1500m relay where the South Africans finished 12th in 1:18:39.10. Gold went to Hungary who won in a time of 1:11:20.10.