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‘Lifesaving is a way of life for me’

A young local lifesaver is currently testing her mettle in the interclub section of the Lifesaving World Championships in Adelaide, Australia.

Fresh from her team’s victory in the mixed Simulated Emergency Rescue Competition (SERC) of the championships’ youth section, Kira Bester is flying the Helderberg flag as part of the South African lifesaving team at the prestigious competition.

The 17-year-old also claimed fifth place in the Malibu board race and was part of the SA youth team that won bronze in the taplin event.

Team SA won 21 medals at the championships in Glenelg and the youth squad finished in fourth place – the best result for the SA youth team in the history of the competition.

The Strand resident, who is a member of both Strand and Marine surf lifesaving clubs, has impressed with her showing at her maiden world champs, which also saw the SA team claim an overall sixth place. Bester is now competing for Marine Lifesaving Club in the interclub part of the championships, which started on Tuesday (27 November).

The Somerset College learner first took up the sport of lifesaving as a nipper aged eight. She is also a provincial surfer and water polo player as well as an avid open water swimmer, who won the monthly DistrictMail and Let’s Play Sportstar of the Month award in April 2016 (“This water baby has Olympics in her sight”, 19 May 2016).

Back then Bester spoke of her dream of participating in the 2018 world championships and now the Grade 11 learner has realised this goal. Over the years she has been among the creme dé la creme of lifesaving in the Western Cape. “I have been included in the Western Cape lifesaving team for three years and won various national titles for board, surf-ski and ironwoman events over the last seven years, winning my first national title for kneeboard aged 10 in 2012. I won ironwoman at this year’s Lifesaving South Africa national championships,” she said.

On a competitive level, the talented sportswoman rates her inclusion in the SA youth team as the highlight of her career, while she marks the mass rescue of three young girls from a near-drowning incident while being on-duty on Strand Beach during the 2017 festive season as an unforgettable work experience as a lifeguard.

“Lifesaving is a way of life for me,” she related. “It is an integral part of my life and everything I do. I spend most of my time on the beach, whether it be training or doing duty. I love the sport of lifesaving and plan to make it my career.”

Leading up to the world championships, Bester trained vigorously for two to three hours, six days a week and you would often find her in the water, running or gyming. “Locally you [would] have been competing with the same competitors for a couple of years and [you] know their strengths and weaknesses,” she said when asked about preparing for the championships.

“Internationally I will be confronted with new competitors, who I have never competed against before, as well as different conditions.”

The young lifesaver named her mother, Carika Meyer, as her biggest inspiration. “She is there for me during the happiness, the disappointment, the tantrums and the sadness,” she said. “She supports me and believes in me. She encourages me and she motivates me, without ever forcing me. The love she has for me inspires and motivates me to work harder, be better and work for what I want.”

What’s her funniest memory of lifesaving? “Overlapping the boys at a competition in a surf-swim event, after the girls were set off three minutes after the boys,” she joked, adding that her most memorable moment on the beach is winning the Malibu board national title for the first time.

While she enjoys competing at Llandudno Beach, she finds Port Elizabeth to be her most challenging venue. “Not because of the actual conditions, but because of a mental block I have when competing there.”

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