From Robben Island to Blouberg – more than just a swim
Tom Gallagher | Guest Writer | H2Open | Tuesday 01 July 2014
His first attempt at the iconic Robben Island to Bloubergstrand in May ended with Arafta Gatabazi being pulled from the water suffering with hypothermia.
But on Saturday June 28, the 19 year old finally completed the 7.5km in a time of 3 hours and 33 minutes.
Water temperatures during the swim range between 14 and 16 °C and in accordance with FINA open water swimming rules Gatabazi wore only a standard wetsuit, swimming cap and goggles.
The man from the Democratic Republic of Congo was thrilled with his performance and was keen to pay tribute to his support team. “I enjoyed the swim,” he said, “And having my coach Maik swim the last 2 km with me was a great feeling of support.”
His indomitable spirit in the face of adversity was keen long before he suffered the extreme cold of the long distance swim.
In October 2012, Gatabazi was forced to flee his native country leaving his parents and two of his siblings behind. Arriving in Cape Town a month later, and fearing that his family that he had left been behind had been killed, he was relocated to The Homestead, a registered non-profit organisation helping street children reconstruct their shattered lives.
Arafat Gatabazi was introduced to swimming through a swim group from the Homestead which met every Thursday at the Long Street pool. Under the leadership of volunteer Marion Wagner, a qualified swim Instructor with her own experience of long distance events having played her part in a cross-Channel relay team, his potential was recognised. It is thought now that the young man has realised his ambitions, his potential as a rising star amongst the open-water fraternity will continue apace.