Rachael is making open water waves

If your knees start trembling at the thought of walking 10 km, imagine how your arms would protest if you had to swim it.

For Rachael Humphries, it is another day at the aquatic office. In fact, this Bachelor of Health Sciences student at the North-West University (NWU), who was born in Randburg and matriculated from The King’s School Robin Hills, embraces challenges such as these.

“In open water I compete in the 3 km, 5 km, 7,5 km and 10 km races. The longest distance I have competed in is the 10 km, and I do not think I am going to compete in events longer than that. I like how relaxed you feel in the water, and I like the fact that it provides a release from all the daily stresses. It allows you to escape to another world,” she explains. 

Rachael has been racing competitively since the age of five after initially getting her feet wet to learn about water safety. “Through that I discovered my love for the water, and I just never stopped.”

In addition to open water swimming, she participates in backstroke and freestyle when in the pool, but it is in the open water where she really hits her stride. “The longer distances are generally my more favoured events.”  

The heart wants what the heart wants, however difficult it may be.

“When peak season comes around, training is relatively tough on the body. In peak season we work on speed, endurance and race pace, and we can train up to eight times a week. So, it can get a bit challenging at times. My highest accolades are probably in the open water, where I have received a silver and bronze medal at the nationals in two different years in the 19 to 29 years age category for the 3 km race. The open water nationals are a very big stage where the biggest names in open water in South Africa compete. Generally, our open water swims take place in dams. At the moment, our qualifying swims are done at Prime View in Olifantsfontein and our open water nationals take place at Marina Martinique in Jeffreys Bay. I have never competed in the sea. I am a little bit sceptical about swimming with sharks, but I am sure I will get there at some point,” she quips.

In 2022, Rachel had four top 10 rankings in Swim South Africa’s 19 years and over categories.

As for her future goals, she hopes to still be swimming by the time she graduates, after which she wants to become a biokineticist who works with professional sports teams, or does hydrotherapy with cerebral palsy patients.  

Her role models include two women of world renown and she hopes to emulate their achievements.

“Ever since I was young, I have really admired Natalie du Toit. Her perseverance to overcome her disability and still do something that she loves is something I have always looked up to. More recently it has been Michelle Weber who has been to two Olympic Games in the open water events. She also just swam the English Channel. Her achievements are so amazing, and to be able to achieve what she has would be wonderful.”

When not swimming, Rachael enjoys running, reading a book or catching up on movies and series. “I am also a big fan of rugby. It has been known that once or twice I will go to training early to be able to watch the Varsity Cup,” she says with a chuckle.

Ever humble, she readily admits that her success was not only of her own making.

“I just want to say a huge ‘thank you’ to my parents. They have taken me everywhere I needed to go and they make sure that I have everything that I need when I am competing. I would not be where I am today without them. I want to thank my grandparents for their endless support, and all my coaches along the way. I have had many coaches who have contributed to who I am as a person and the way that I view sport. I want to thank God for all the talent I have been given and I want to use it to glorify him.”


Rachael Humphries

Submitted on Fri, 07/07/2023 - 11:40