Unlike his Olympic brethren, who ply their trade on the track, this champion is the king of the sand.
False Bay Surf Lifesaving Club’s Ryle de Morny, 27, of Heathfield, made history for SA in France in 2014 when he became one of the first, if not the first, men to hold both flag and sprint world titles simultaneously.
Now, two years on, the speedster hopes to defend “the double” and make history once more as he heads for the beaches of the Netherlands to take on the world’s best at the Lifesaving World Championships.
Plagued with injury early on his competitive career, he seems to have put all that behind him and is confident he will be able to pull the wins out the bag.
“Winning the double back in 2014 was an incredible and overwhelming experience. It was something I had dreamt of for years and I had faced so many obstacles and injuries and had to carry the pain and disappointment with me all those years.
“I think that is actually what fuelled me to want it so much more. The pure euphoria of the years of hard work and sacrifice finally paying off is something I will cherish forever.
“There is a new kind of pressure on me, with so many people supporting me and I can’t avoid hoping not to let them and my country down.
“It’s that very pressure that drives me and ensures that I do all I can and give my all in training so that I will be able to find solitude in the fact that I have prepared as best I can and erase the doubts and wondering about the what-ifs.
“Something I’ve done a little differently this time around is to make the transition to track running as well.
“I never had the opportunity and means to do it before but in just a short time I feel that I have learnt so much. I feel it has been a massive component towards progression and I only wish I could have done it sooner.
“The amount of work you have to put in just to see the smallest improvements is testing enough on its own,” he said.
Although he will be competing as an individual, De Morny will be joined by his False Bay compatriots for the world inter-club section of the championships.
There he will stand as team captain, something he is looking forward to and sharing the experience of tackling the world stage will be an experience in itself.
“When I first began competing I was afraid of success, of what it meant to work hard and make sacrifices to actually achieve something. I began to learn to compete for the right reasons and looked forward to using competitions as a means of testing my progress and seeing what work needed to be done as I had great competitors pushing me.
“The experience I have gained is something I try to pass on to others. I feel I could have benefited from this kind of mentorship myself when I was younger.
“I had a great competition season this year, winning all my events and defending both my national beach sprints and flags titles.
“Winning the beach relay at Western Cape champs with the False Bay team was special and going on to win a much-anticipated national title with them was an incredible achievement. Looking ahead to the world championships, it will be great to get the chance to compete against the world’s best and see what progress I have made over the last two years. It is the biggest event on the calendar and you have to wait two years each time to experience it again so you can imagine the anticipation,” he said.