Johannesburg – South African swimmer Roland Schoeman has no plans to retire any time soon.
The 33-year-old refuses to give up on his ultimate dream of becoming the first South African to attend five Olympic Games and has his sights set on making a splash at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro in Brazil.
He would love nothing more than to rack up another Olympic gold medal. And if his recent form has anything to do with it, Schoeman has shown no signs of slowing down.
Last weekend the ace sprinter raced to his third gold medal from three starts at the Swimming World Cup in Berlin.
On Sunday, the veteran Olympian stunned the favourite, Vladimir Morozov (Russia), with another blistering start to steal the gold medal in the men’s 50m freestyle and clock an amazing 20.86 seconds.
Morozov was unable to close Schoeman down and ended second on 21.00, with Steffen Deibler (Germany) taking the bronze in 21.04.
Schoeman was also unbeaten on Saturday in the 50m breaststroke (25.65) and 50m butterfly (22.05).
Speaking to the Saturday Star this week, Schoeman said he had been pleased by his form at the championships.
“I’m thrilled to have picked up three gold medals in three races in Berlin,” he said.
“World Champs was far better than previous years, but still not what I had hoped for. To turn it around and refocus was critical to my performances at the start of the world cup series.”
Schoeman said out of the three races swum at the World Champs, the 50m freestyle had been the toughest so far. “The freestyle is definitely a deeper event at the World Cups, with swimmers like Magnussen, Morozov, Diebler, Bovell. These are top-quality sprinters and a far harder event to win than the breast and fly,” he said.
Although he wasn’t the favourite to win the 50m freestyle, Schoeman said he was optimistic.
“We all possess a similar amount of talent, so it really is about which swimmer puts together the best race.
“Vlad Morozov is an incredibly gifted young swimmer that I’m looking forward to racing for the rest of the world cup circuits. I’m looking forward to the competition.”
Schoeman also raced against compatriot, Chad le Clos, in the 50m final. Schoeman claimed gold in the race with Le Clos securing third place.
Schoeman said he had enjoyed racing against a fellow South African. “It’s always great having another South African in the race and on the podium,” he said.
“I remember a couple years ago Cameron (Van der Burgh), Neil Versveld and I were on the podium for the 50m breaststroke. It’s great to share that honour with countrymen.”
Achieving three gold medals in three races doesn’t come easy in a world championship, admits Schoeman. Lots of hard work and dedication went into his training.
“I had nine swim sessions a week for an hour and also four gym sessions a week as well as a yoga session,” he said. “It takes hard work, determination, self-belief, great coaches and the support of my friends and family.”
He has no plans to retire any time soon. “There have been points where I’ve been pushed close to retirement, whether they be personal reasons or financial reasons,” he said.
“At the end of the day I refuse to give up on a dream of being the first South African to attend five Olympics.”
Schoeman, who is now based in the US, said he missed home and would have loved to return. However, circumstances do not allow him to do so.
“I moved back to SA in 2008 to try and give the South African system a try. Unfortunately it didn’t work for me and I returned to the US in August of 2011.
“Two years after that I am better than ever. The system works for me and I am sad that I can’t be in South Africa with my friends and family. SA will always be home and I try to spend at least three months a year there.”
Schoeman is optimistic about the future of South African swimming. “We are always producing top-quality swimmers. For a country like ours we produce some of the best swimmers in the world.
“Whether they are based in South Africa and become the best, or decide to train overseas, at the end of the day we are all representing South Africa with the goal of a medal.
“There are definitely some systems that need to change to ensure that our swimmers stay involved for longer as competitors and as members of Swim SA.”
Asked which had been his most memorable medal, Schoeman said the 4x100m freestyle relay at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. “In swimming being a team is really rare, so to be able to stand up as four people representing a country and win a medal when no one expected us to is special,” Schoeman said. “That will always be the greatest swim memory.”