One of the most memorable things that can happen to any kid is to meet their hero. When schools stage career days for their pupils, a lot of the young minds find themselves dreaming of the otherwise unfathomable.
You’re bound to meet some professional today who will tell you that the day they decided to do with their lives what they are doing now was because of a career day.
In the same vein, trying to inspire some youngsters out there, Disney XD has given a few lucky fans the chance to meet super swimmer Cameron van der Burgh as he trains for the next big competition.
We caught up with Van der Burgh to find out more about this initiative as he took a break from his gruesome training schedule.
“If I had the same opportunity to meet someone to inspire me when I was younger it would probably have been Penny Heyns. Growing up I didn’t know what Olympics meant. Yet she won two gold medals there and we witnessed that. I remember cutting out her pictures and I’d be like, this girl is my idol,” he said.
“My dream was always to be like her. And when my turn came – even before my Olympic participation – I got a chance to speak to her. She gave me some pointers on how to handle the pressure. So I sort of had my career day with her.”
Now that it is his time to give back, one lucky winner has a chance to spend the day with him. Van der Burgh said it would be an honour to mentor someone – whether they wanted to be a swimmer or not.
“Each person who enters the competition will be looking for something different, so I’ll have to be mindful of that.
“I think the principles of success are more or less the same, so I’ll share my story with the young person I will get and in turn learn something from them.
“I am sure just from talking I can get to pick up pointers on how to advise them to work toward their dream goal,” he said.
Also, van der Burgh felt this exercise will go a long way in demystifying the the fictitious statures of celebrities.
“When people see us on TV or in a magazine it is almost like we are larger than life characters who are inaccessible. So this arrangement breaks those perceptions.
“In turn, it then instills that belief in the kids that if I have made it then you can make it too,” he said.
Since he’s been on the international stage scooping accolades from top athletes, it is intriguing that Van der Burgh still manages to remain almost anonymous and nonchalant about his achievements.
“I think it is a South African culture thing. If you look at the home cricket team against say that of New Zealand, you will realise that while our team would stay humble, the other one would talk loud about their achievements and abilities. In South Africa we are brought up to be humble,” he said.