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Never backing down

Sometimes good just isn’t enough. As a professional athlete, in any arena, there really is very little room for error.

To say I was disappointed in my 50m butterfly semifinal result doesn’t quite suffice. Watching the final and knowing that a smooth swim would’ve won me a silver medal was even more frustrating.

I could have been back on an international podium and possibly even have heard the South African anthem play once more. Unfortunately, it was not to be this time.

What went wrong you may ask? When I touched the wall in the semifinal, I honestly didn’t think I would have had too much trouble in making the final. The swim itself felt fairly smooth and comfortable, the only two differences were that I was slightly deeper on my start and an ill-timed finish (long glide into the wall) cost me my place in the final. My fate was sealed in less time than it takes one to blink an eye.

I now have two choices: Give up or refocus and get myself back into contention.

There’s a saying: “excuses are for people who don’t want it bad enough. Stop saying I can’t, I won’t, I might, I’ll try, maybe later, tomorrow etc. Start saying I WILL today!” From this quote, I think you’ll all know which choice I’ve made.

I have worked too hard, sacrificed too much, have put in way too much sweat and tears to give up after a let-down.

My time of 23.02 in the heats reaffirmed to me that I’m back in the hunt at world champs and am in as good a form as any of my other competitors. I know that my preparation has been as good as ever and I’m right there in the thick of things. What this championship has also shown me is that if you have a prime lane in the final, you have a shot at winning a medal.

My top goals right now are to make the 50m freestyle final, let the time take care of itself, race hard and don’t give up an inch. I’m also aiming to touch the wall as fast as I can and stay relaxed.

So what do the next few days entail until I race again on Friday?

Contrary to what some may believe, we don’t go sight-seeing or take any one of a number of endless tourist options here in Barcelona.

A typical day at world champs between races looks something like this:

8 – 9am: Wake Up
9 – 10am: Breakfast
10am – 1pm: Light stretch; watch some DVDs/series (staying off my feet)
1 – 2pm: Lunch
4pm: Bus ride to the competition pool
5pm: Short training session (focus is either on recovery, speed or power)
6pm: Finals (Cheer on fellow Saffers)
8 – 9pm: Dinner
10 – 11pm: Try to fall asleep

Pretty exciting don’t you think?

As for Team SA, the swim team is made up of your veteran competitors, Gerhard Zandberg, Cameron van der Burgh and I.

Then we have a truly talented group of youngsters who have limitless potential such as: Myles Brown (sixth, 400m free) Marlies Ross, 15, Darren Murray (200m backstroke semifinalist) and Giulio Zorzi (50m breaststroke medal hopeful). These are just a few of the individuals that make up Team SA.

For most, these championships are an exciting learning opportunity and the perfect place to race heading into the Commonwealth Games next year.

I’ve added a few more behind-the-scenes photos this week. In the first, from left to right you will see Tara Nicholas, Marne Erasmus, Darren Murray and Michael Meyer relaxing on our bus drive to the pool.

As you can see in the second snap, these finely-tuned professional athletes are all taking great care in eating just the right amount of food to aid recovery.

The final photo is of a relaxed looking first-time world championship finalist Giulio Zorzi giving a thumbs up ahead of his 50m breaststroke final.

I want to conclude this week’s blog post with a question that came through from reader Solly Mathiba: “Do you prep with power training or strength training? And how much power of your lower limbs do you use when swimming compared to the upper-body?"

For a sprinter there are various components we focus on. The critical components are: Power, strength, speed and speed endurance.

Each element is addressed at different stages of a 12-16 week season. Depending on each individual, one may spend more time focusing on a certain component as opposed to another.

The lower-body in swimming has typically been labeled the engine of a swimmer. One finds that some of the world’s best swimmers are just able to kick faster and further than others. However, the key is being able to use the power from your legs with an efficient swimming stroke.

There’s always a fine balance in swimming – use your legs too much and you’re going to fatigue quickly, don’t use your legs enough and you risk swimming slower. It’s all about finding balance and figuring out your strengths and weaknesses.

Leave your comments and questions below. Hope you’re all having a great week.

Best wishes,
Roland S.

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