EASTERN Province's swimmers are gearing up for one of their biggest challenges when the SA Masters Swimming Championships take place in Nelson Mandela Bay today, starting at 2pm.
The gala, which will accommodate 459 swimmers, will be held at Newton Park pool from today to Saturday before moving to Marina Martinique for two open water events on Sunday.
A total of 179 swimmers have entered the 1km and 3km swims, which will get under way at 10.30am.
Local masters swimmers will pit their skills against competitors from all over the country, including several age-group world record holders.
The 2012 World Masters Championships held in Riccione, Italy, which attracted a massive 12500 competitors, saw 53 South Africans take part.
World records were set by Chris King in the 25-29 age-group (100m backstroke 56.80 and 200m backstroke 2:03.62) and by Dave McLachlan in the 75-79 age-group (200 butterfly 3:26.21).
Masters swimming in South Africa was founded officially in 1985 and caters for swimmers from the age of 19 and upwards. The age-groups go up in increments of five years, starting with the 19-24 group.
Events are over all distances and strokes, while masters swimming also caters for all levels, not only those at the top end of the competitive level.
The World Masters Championships are held every second year and draw an average of 6000 competitors internationally, covering all the swimming disciplines of water polo, diving, synchronised swimming, open water swimming and pool events.
South Africans regularly compete with the best and at last year's SA Masters Championships at the University of the Western Cape, five world records were broken.
Two individual records were broken by Tim Shead in the 60-64 200m backstroke (2:34.00) and 200m breaststroke (2:46.46) and one by Ryk Neethling in the 35-39 50m butterfly (24.69).
World records were also set in the 4x100m mixed freestyle relays in the 100-129 age-group – the four swimmers' ages must equal between 100 and 129 years – by Tarryn Stanford, Bevin Reynolds, Thane Williams and Neethling (3:47.11), and in the 200 age-group by Cecilia Stanford, Edith Otterman, Tim Shead and Nigel Hendricks (4:16.14).