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Failure is not fatal

“Failure is an event, not a person. Yesterday ended last night” – Zig Ziglar

International travellers know the feeling of sitting at their gate waiting to board a flight home. The shear excitement and anticipation of finally getting onto the plane to start the long journey back to their native land is palpable.

Every April, I sit in Atlanta dreading the 16-hour flight. However, in spite of my apprehension on the length of the journey, I sit there giddy like a school kid. I can’t wait to get home, can’t wait to see my family and friends, and I can’t wait to race in South Africa again. Those are the overriding and empowering thoughts I can barely contain whenever I’m waiting to fly back to my place of birth. This April, it was no different.

In December 2014, I made the incredibly tough decision to forego competing at the World Short Course Championships in order to train and prepare for this year’s World Championship trials in Durban. Well aware of the importance of the pre-Olympic year, I decided not to disrupt my training anymore with international racing trips. Instead, I put in a solid block of training that would assist me at the trials and World Championships.

The plan of action was to get a good solid base of training under my belt so that by the time trials rolled around, I would be swimming as fast as I ever have done over my professional career. Unfortunately, in life things don’t always quite go according to plan.

Towards the middle of March, I picked up a virus that saw me sidelined. While it was not ideal by any means, I had to remain focused and positive about racing in April. Heading into trials, I was quietly optimistic about my performances and confident of being able to swim under the qualifying times. I even committed to swimming the 100m freestyle event, as my training was more geared for the longer distance than the 50m freestyle.

To qualify in the 50m freestyle, I knew I would need to swim a time that I have done almost 100 times before in my career. The standard is fast but it’s a time that I’ve been able to clock in the middle of a hard training season. It has definitely never been a problem when I’m in race shape and ready to compete. Unfortunately, this year it just wasn’t meant to be. I could feel from day one that I lacked the speed and power needed to carry me through my races. The frustrating part lies in the fact that I did train as hard as ever and the results simply weren’t forthcoming.

Alas, that is the nature of professional sport. While picking up a virus in the final stages of preparation cost me dearly, I have chosen to stay positive; chosen to look to the future and refocus my goals.

I love racing in Durban. It is without a doubt the best racing pool we have in South Africa. However, Kings Park is in need of a major revamp. As a swimming nation, we want to compete and compare ourselves to the United States, Australia and England.

Sadly, however, we are just not putting our swimmers in a position in order to achieve the above. In South Africa, we have always had swimmers who were ‘outlier’ individuals, who in spite of adverse circumstances stepped up and excelled. The problem with this, however, is that the well can run dry for a period of time. The more steps we put in place to ensure growth and continued success, the more fast swimmers we’ll produce.


At trials we are being asked to swim world-class times in sub-standard conditions. That unfortunately is the reality. The Kings Park pool is outdated and the starting blocks do not meet the international governing body’s standard for international competition.

Another problem experienced this past weekend was how cold the swimming pool water was. The outdoor pool for warm-ups and cool-downs also had minimal lighting. Swimmers were swimming in virtual darkness. In my view, no other top world swimming nation would have had their swimmers preparing and competing in those conditions.

The problem is that we have come to accept that it is the way it is. If we have come to accept the sub-par conditions, well then, quite frankly, we need to accept the sub-par performances. I’m in no way imparting blame on any party – there is room for improvement across the board. However, I have always been outspoken and will continue to voice my opinion because I believe in the talent this country has to offer.

I once again volunteer my services to Swimming South Africa, as a consultant or in any other capacity, because I want to see positive change. I want to witness development take place and I desperately want to see South African swimmers excel internationally.

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

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