River Mile Champ Underdone But Hopeful

A slightly underdone Daniel Jones is hoping to defend both of his titles at the Spar River Mile Festival at Cannonville outside Port Elizabeth this weekend.  Jones, who ranks last year’s wins in the double mile and mile alongside his runner-up position in the Jendamark Bell Buoy Challenge as career highlights, says:  ‘I’m not as fit as I was last year because I haven’t been training as much as I should.  But I still have a few days to get back into it.’  The 18-year-old from PE says that although he would love to claim the titles again, it was all up to what happened on race day:  ‘There are a lot of other strong swimmers wanting to get their hands on that trophy.’

He says his toughest challenge would “probably” come from Aquabear’s Ian Venter, who beat him comfortably in last weekend’s Nelson Mandela Bay Aquatics open-water race over 5km on the Settlers Dam in Grahamstown:  ‘He’s really swimming well at the moment – both in the pool and in open water.  He’s definitely the man to watch.’  Last year Jones, who swims for Bay Eagles, had a good start in the feature event and led from start to finish.

He says:  ‘I just increased my pace towards the end.’  His motivation for competing in the double mile the day before was however nothing about prestige and all about sibling rivalry.  Jones says:  ‘I went in just to beat my brothers and by doing that I won.  The real surprise was the following day’s River Mile.  It was my goal to win, but I never expected it.’  Jones, who concentrates on the 200m backstroke in the pool, played his cards close to his chest and says he would only decide on his race strategy the day before or even on the day itself.

In the women’s races, 16-year-old Pearson pupil Hannah Haswell will also be aiming to reclaim her titles.  Haswell says:  ‘I’ve been training hard and I’ve put the time and the effort in, so I’m just hoping that I’ll be able to reflect this on the day.  Overall, I just want to defend my titles.’  The River Mile Festival, which gets underway on February 20, supports the Smile Foundation and Cleft Friends.

Gates open at 08:00 on both days and entry is R20 per person.