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Expanding horizons

Another year of World Cup racing has come to a close, and I’m truly more excited and optimistic than ever before.

As in previous seasons, there are a myriad positives that I’m able to take away from the race and travel experience.

With regard to the former, while my freestyle and butterfly disciplines are still not where I need them to be, I believe that now, more than ever, I am back on track.

Traditionally, I’ve always gone into depth about the World Cup cluster from a race perspective. However, I’ve rarely provided a behind-the-scenes account of what makes the series so memorable and keeps me coming back for more, year-in and year-out.

The World Cup series provides the perfect opportunity to travel, to compete and earn an income. In my opinion, what it also serves to do is put people into your life that become your friends and a part of your journey.

Lunches and dinners are spent reminiscing, teasing each other and joking around. The overwhelming seriousness and focus that we all exude during the Olympics or World Championships sheds way to show a far more normal and laid back way of life. While we remain extremely competitive and want to win, a lot of us have a slightly different focus.

In my book, the World Cup forges somewhat of a family unit among the swimmers. I’ve spent most of my time on the series with the Australians and Europeans, and if you’re receptive, there’s a great sense of camaraderie and support to be gleamed.

Some athletes don't adopt the above belief and spend the majority of their time on their own. While I appreciate and respect their wishes, it’s not something that I subscribe to.

I feel incredibly blessed to have made some life-long friends, and my life has been infinitely enriched because of their help and advice.

We've been stranded together in some of the worst destinations but we've also had the opportunity to experience some of the most majestic cities and cultures in the world.

Since 1997, through the avenue of swimming, I've been afforded the opportunity to travel the world, experience new cultures and ways of life. Each country I’ve visited has provided me with a partial glimpse into the respective cultures and lifestyles.

It has helped me garner a different perspective on the world, but more importantly, I’ve been able to gain perspective on my own life.

However, few may know that I've always been a skittish flyer. An incident back in 2000, where our Boeing’s engine started stalling and spitting out fireballs, forever tarnished the idea that turbulence can be fun.

Irrespective of the incident, I love traveling. Travel enriches the life with culture, memories and experiences that help grow you and your way of thinking.

As far as the racing went, I endeavored to swim the 100m breaststroke a little more over the Asian cluster and I’m glad that I did.

What a difference between Beijing and Singapore. In Singapore I dropped a further one and a half seconds off my previous best, and now all of a sudden, I find myself ranked top five in the world in an event I had previously never competed in.

It’s these new and exciting challenges that keep me fresh in this sport after so long. My adventure and growth in the sport of swimming continues.

The success I’ve garnered in the breaststroke event proves to me that the physiology and training is in place and on track. Now I need to swim my freestyle and butterfly disciplines with the same sort of relaxation that I channel while racing the breaststroke.

While it was my desire to attend the World Short Course Championships in Doha in December, I elected to withdraw my request in order to focus on training and getting ready for World Championship trials next April.

The period between now and then will provide me with the perfect opportunity to get in a solid block of training.

With all the travel this year, it has been hard to put in a truly consistent period of training, something that over the long run can prove detrimental.

Post your comments below and follow me on Twitter @Rolandschoeman.

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