Kevin Fialkov

Kevin Fialkov was born in Cape Town on 23 April 1936, and he died there on 18 November 2016, age 80. He  played a big part as a competitor and a coach -  in swimming, water polo and surf lifesaving in the Cape over many years. 

Kevin Fialkov : an accomplished open water swimmer, who’s whole family seem to be water-babies. Kevin coaches a high-intensity 45-minute session in the evenings and was the person who helped me plan my swim with regard to tempo, milestones & keeping my mind occupied for the swim. 

Andy Pfaff
English Channel swimmer 2007

City man made swim ming fun

CAPE Town lost one of its most colourful swimming legends this week, with the passing of Kevin Fialkov. Over the past 60 years, Fialkov had a quiet hand in shaping all facets of the sport of swimming in Cape Town, from pool racing, water polo, life-saving, masters swimming, open sea swimming to coaching, a discipline he excelled at and became renowned for.

Born on April 23, 1938 to Aaron and Nita Fialkov in Sea Point, Fialkov was the second of four brothers, Avram and twins David and Michael. Educated at Christian Brothers College in Green Point, Fialkov’s swimming prowess was evident at school, where his records stood for many years.

He matriculated in 1955 and became one of the founders of the Clifton Surf Lifesaving Club the following year. Lifesaving at Clifton played a vital role later in his life, as he relived his youth through the activities of his three sons, Laurie, Warren and Deon.

Fialkov represented Western Province in both swimming and water polo in the 1950s, finishing 3rd in the 400m IM at the 1956 South African swimming championships in Durban. He earned SA Maccabi Colours for both disciplines in 1964.

He married his school sweetheart, Hazel Baker, after dating her for 13 years. Fialkov studied part-time and trained as an accountant and was accepted as a member of the Public Accountants and Auditors Board as well as the SA Institute of Chartered Accountants in 1972.

In the 1980s he was instrumental in launching masters (age-group) swimming and introduced the Masters Mile phenomenon at the Sea Point Pavilion and kept a register of everyone’s mile time, 32 lengths at the “old” Sea Point Pavilion.

Coaching came naturally to Fialkov and he imparted his knowledge to strangers he saw at the pool. He coached Theo Yach for his first English Channel swim in 1996, and accompanied Lewis Pugh on his first Robben Island crossing.

Over the years Fialkov’s accounting practise grew and he became a financial adviser to many.

With the resurgence of Robben Island swimming in the late 1980s, Fialkov trained his first born Laurie, as an 11-year old, to swim from the Island to Three Anchor Bay, a distance of 12km in 1983. The age record still stands.

Hazel Fialkov passed away in 1996. Fialkov married Joy Gordon years later. The relationship ended in 2007.

Fialkov swam Robben Island every decade since his 30s. In 2008 he completed a Robben Island to Blouberg race. Almost half the field withdrew due to poor conditions and icy water, but obstinate Fialkov completed the race at 70 years old, becoming the oldest person to swim the crossing, in 3:55.

He would select the date and no matter the conditions and water temperature he would stick to it. A case in point was his 22km swim from Three Anchor Bay, around Robben Island to Melkbos in May 1995. Swum in huge 4m swells, an exhausted Kevin reached Melkbos eight hours later, only to be confronted by 3.7m waves breaking onto the rocks. Using his life-saving acumen, he body surfed over the reef, safely to shore. The record remains today.

Kevin found happiness in the last years with his partner, Gaby Pieper, with whom he enjoyed life till his death on November 18. Kevin leaves Pieper and his three sons, Laurie and wife Joon and their children Kingston and Phoe and Warren and ancé Andrea Levitt and Deon.