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Brilliant Smith puts SA on the map Down Under

By Avuyile Sawula , in Water Sports | Featured Water Sports | News , at 2023-12-03

International schools’ representation in sports such as rugby, cricket, and hockey has incrementally grown and become a norm in South Africa in recent years.

Last year, the Grey College rugby side represented the country at the World Schools Festival. Meanwhile, the SA u17 hockey team has just returned from the Dato Mirnawan Cup in Malaysia, and the South African surfing team is currently battling the waves at the World Junior Surfing Championship in Brazil.

However, it has become apparent that it’s not only the so-called “major” sporting codes that are capturing the spotlight for South Africa abroad. Cape Town teenager Holly Smith is excellent evidence of that.

Smith, who is a grade 11 pupil at Camps Bay High School, participates in one of the more unusual sporting codes in South African schools, canoeing.

Her heroics have seen her light up the scene on the water and receive national recognition.

Earlier this year, the determined, resilient, and hard-working athlete as described by her school’s head of sport, Busi Ngcwama, wrote her name into the history books by claiming the u18 Junior Women’s K2 Doubles Marathon title in Denmark.

She and her companion, Georgia Singe, from Fish Hoek High School, held their nerves to stave off a strong challenge from the Spanish duo of Maria Martinez and Lidia Zornoza to claim gold and the titles of world champions.

Smith was not yet done. She was on a mission to end the year on a high note, and she achieved wonders at both the Shaw and Partners Western Australia Race Week, the biggest event on the Australian ocean paddling calendar, which was held from the 18th to the 25th of November in Perth, and the 2023 ICF Canoe Ocean Racing World Championships, which also took place off the coast of Perth, from the 30th of November to the 3rd of December.

During her time Down Under, Smith was phenomenal on the water. She started her campaign in the best way possible by claiming multiple titles at the Shaw and Partners WA Race Week.

She was crowned the overall Shaw and Partners Junior Girls Race Week champion after winning The Shaw and Partners Doctor and The Fenn West Coast Downwinder.

Holly Smith stands atop the podium as the 2023 overall junior girls' champion of the Shaw and Partners WA Race Week.
Holly Smith stands atop the podium as the 2023 overall junior girls’ champion of the Shaw and Partners WA Race Week.

The Doctor is a 27-kilometre surf ski event, from Rottnest Island to Sorrento Beach, and Smith won the junior title in 2:13:33.1, finishing just under 38 seconds ahead of the runner-up, Kaitlin Rees.

The Fenn West Coast Downwinder, as the name suggests, is a downwind race, covering 24 km, from Fremantle to Sorrento Beach. Smith won by a similar margin to her victory in The Doctor, finishing 42 seconds ahead of her nearest challenger, Alyssa Bailey, for the junior girls’ honours in 1:40:49.2.

It was then time for the Camps Bay High pupil to showcase her skills at the World Championships.

In her first race, the single surf ski event, she was consistent, and dominant, taking the challenge to her opponents and racing away to first place in a fast 01:32:17.2, which put her well over a minute clear of runner-up Lara Cellier-Henriquez of Spain, and Australia’s Alyssa Bailey, who placed third, more than three minutes off the pace.

Clad in her South African tracksuit, Holly Smith is all smiles as she is recognised as the junior girls' world champion at the K1 Ocean Paddling World Championships.
Clad in her South African tracksuit, Holly Smith is all smiles as she is recognised as the junior girls’ singles surf ski world champion at the Ocean Paddling World Championships.

Looking to end the World Championships on a high, Smith also put her name up for the junior mixed doubles race alongside Heath Clarke this past weekend. This time, she had to settle for third place and a bronze medal.

Victory went to the Australian duo of Alyssa Bailey, and Ziko Vesely, with the Spanish team of Enrique Garcia Torres and Lara Cellier Henriquez claiming silver.

Reacting to his daughter’s superb performances, Holly’s father, Mike Smith, lauded her hard work and dedication as the reasons for her success.

“As a parent, it’s awesome to watch one’s child growing and living life to the full and being rewarded handsomely for the dedication, sacrifices, and commitment,” he told SuperSport Schools.

“Sometimes I worry that she misses out on her teenage years with the sacrifices one needs to get to this point, but it’s incredible watching her journey.”

Smith also says Holly’s top performances in big events is bringing financial relief for his daughter, as investors are starting to take notice.

“She has been given the tools, but it’s she that puts in the hard yards, and if she takes these life lessons through life the world can be her oyster.

“We are beyond proud and it’s also great to finally see a couple of sponsorships coming her way, which means the world to her.”

Holly returns to South Africa this week and will be due a rousing welcome from her family and school after making them proud on the global stage.

error: Sorry ol' chap, those shenanigans are not permissible.