x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Lifeguards battle it out in national competition

The day-long contest saw lifeguards from 23 hotels across the UAE compete to show off their swimming, running and rescue skills.

An all-female team from Aquaventure Waterpark competes at the UAE National Lifeguard Championships yesterday. Razan Alzayani / The National
An all-female team from Aquaventure Waterpark competes at the UAE National Lifeguard Championships yesterday. Razan Alzayani / The National

DUBAI // Dressed in matching pink swimsuits, Charlette Cornites and her three teammates added a touch of glamour to this year’s National Lifeguard Championship.

But the women were not there to collect compliments, they were out to win and beat the teams of men.

“We want to prove that what men can do, ladies can do better,” said Ms Cornites, 25, a Filipina who works at the Aquaventure Waterpark at Atlantis.

“We are very proud to be competing against all the men. It is a test of our endurance and fitness levels. It is a tough fight but we are confident we can do well.”

The contest was held at Le Meridien Mina Seyahi Beach Resort and Marina in Dubai.

Ms Cornites and her group were the only all-women team among the 23 hotels taking part.

They came fourth in the casualty pick-up event, when they had to carry out a mock rescue.

The lifeguards were judged on their ability to swim quickly to a victim – a team member who was pretending to be in distress – put a rescue tube around them, pull them ashore and carry them to safety.

Lifeguards from across the country competed in the day-long contest to show off their swimming, running and rescue skills.

“The sand is really tough to run on,” said Anuraj RA, 26, an Indian lifeguard from Le Meridien Al Aqah resort in Fujairah.

“It is especially harder when you have to run right after a swim. But as lifeguards we have to do everything and have to face any challenge thrown at us.”

In the run-swim-run-swim challenge, the lifeguards sprinted 200 metres across sand then swam for another 200m before completing another circuit.

The teams said their jobs had prepared them well.

“If we are lifeguards, we have to keep up our fitness levels,” said Isuru Kithmal, 21, a Sri Lankan lifeguard at the new Fairmont Palm Hotel and Resort. “It is a tough contest but this is the best proof of our fitness levels.”

Mr Kithmal said the event brought professionals together. “It is nice to meet and talk to all the lifeguards,” he said.

Some teams had been training for three months for the event.

“It is really good for awareness on water safety,” said Nicole D’Silva Oliveira, the health club manager at Khidmah, a services management company in Abu Dhabi.

“Drowning is a killer in the Middle East. This kind of competition not only motivates the team in what is a low-paid job, but also highlights the need for safety in our beaches, residential communities and hotels.”

Organisers said the competition had grown since its launch in 2006.

“We started with 12 teams, now there are 23,” said Patrick Antaki, the complex general manager at Le Meridien Al Aqah.

He said the event intended to raise awareness about those involved in water safety.

“We train these people to a high level but the public doesn’t have awareness about what it takes to become a lifeguard,” he said.

“Last year, we did it in the rain. Lifeguards do their jobs whether it is windy or the weather is beautiful.

“This will showcase one part of what they do. Lifeguards are taking a lot of effort to ensure people are safe.”

pkannan@thenational.ae