Cape Town - It is the unfortunate reality of so many good South African athletes, that unless their sport of choice is one of the big three of soccer, rugby and cricket, it is more a fight than a right to the back pages reflecting sports glory.
None among South Africa’s elite sporting heroes would relate more than Lifesaving South Africa’s Ryle de Morny, who at 33 wants to make one more statement about his brilliance as the world’s premier men’s flags specialist and being among the fastest beach sprinters.
De Morny has always been quick on the track but it is on sand where he has sizzled for the past 15 years, dominating in South Africa and abroad.
The 2020 World Championships were cancelled because of Covid and De Morny is the incumbent world champion in the flags, having won in Adelaide, Australia in 2018.
De Morny missed out on the world sprint title in Adelaide because of injury, but was able to reclaim his South African sprint title in 2019, when he did the double in the sprint and flag disciplines.
De Morny is the men’s headline act in the DHL Lifesaving South Africa National Championships, which starts today and welcomes 1 000 of the country’s finest seniors, juniors, nippers and masters to showcase the competitive qualities of those who for most of the year guard South Africa’s waters but on weeks like this, get to deliver on their athletic ability.
De Morny, if he was an Australian or New Zealander, would command a very prominent sporting profile because of his achievements in Lifesaving.
In South Africa, though, the fastest man on sand is recognised more for being ‘that fitness guru’ on Mzansi’s breakfast show ‘Expresso’ and for his acting in the local Netflix series ‘Blood and Water’.
Within the global Lifesaving community, De Morny is as big a name as the very best from Australia and New Zealand, the two most dominant countries in the sport, and to have him compete in Gqeberha in the next few days adds so much to a National Championship that didn’t happen in 2020 because of Covid.
Yet in a Covid-influenced world where nothing is normal, De Morny’s dominance in the flags and sprints remains the only consistent from how life once was.
De Morny, originally from the Cape’s False Bay Club, will compete for Kwazulu-natal’s Durban Surf Club, and while other professional commitments have become a priority, it hasn’t yet been at the expense of his involvement in the sport of Lifesaving, despite it being a sport that doesn’t have the financial muscle of the traditional codes in South Africa.
De Morny, in previewing the National Championships, said he was under no illusion that historic form or results would count for little if he was not at his best, with his long-time teammate and friend Chevan Clarke capable of an upset.
De Morny’s efforts at the World Championships for the past decade are unrivalled in the sport, when it comes to consistency and glory, yet for so long, the occasions have been too few in the South African sporting media when it comes to celebrating South Africa’s world champion in flags and fastest man on the sand.
You speak to any athlete in the sport and they will tell you how difficult it is to maintain De Morny’s consistency and just how big an achievement it is to double up in flags and sprints and to do it against the very best in the world, year in and year out.
De Morny takes great pride in winning the world championship in 2018 because he did it as a 30-year-old and he did it four years after winning the world championship double in France and 10 years after his debut world championship in Egypt, in which he finished second in the sprints and third in the flags.
“Flags is particularly intense as a discipline and there is a huge mental component to flags,” says De Morny.
“You have to be on another level in order to survive a competition and not succumb to fatigue.
“It is incredibly mentally and physically taxing and it is not just about speed, but having the perfect balance in the sand.”
There is always a healthy regard for whoever lines up against him at the National Championships and in 2017 and 2018, the KZN sprinter Jonathan Rorke stunned De Morny in the sprints.
But typical of the very best, De Morny responded by reclaiming his sprint crown in 2019 and maintaining his hold on the flags gold.
The dozens of medals aside, De Morny says there isn't a greater feeling than being responsible for saving someone's life.
"We all get into Lifesaving to serve the community and the competitive side is just one aspect of Lifesaving. One of the most memorable days I had was working on December 26th and managing a squad that made over 15 rescues that day,“says De Morny. “When you get to experience saving someone's life, it puts everything else into perspective.”
De Morny's Team SA National Honours Board:
2006 Sanyo Busson, Japan
2007 Sanyo Busson, Japan
2008 World Champs: Germany 2nd sprints /3rd flags
2010 World Champs: Egypt 1st sprints /3rd flags 2012 World Champs: Australia 1st flags
2014 World Champs: France 1st flags /1st sprints
2016 Sanyo Busson, Japan 10 year reunion
2016 World Champs: Netherlands 2nd sprints /2nd flags
2018 World Champs: Australia: 1st flags.
DHL Lifesaving National Championships Schedule
2 to 4 October - Senior Surf
4 – 5 October - Juniors Surf
4 – 5 October - Nippers Pool
6 – 9 October - Nippers Surf
6 - 9 October – Senior and Juniors Pool