at the Union Buildings in Pretoria
London - South African swimmer Charles Bouwer pocketed his second medal at the London Paralympic Games on Sunday, coming second in the 100m freestyle S13 final on Sunday evening.
With a gold medal already tucked away from the 50m freestyle S13, Bouwer was beaten by Ihar Boki of Belarus, who broke the world record for the second time in one day, touching in 51.91 seconds.
Bouwer was a second behind him in 52.97, followed by another Belarussian, Aleksandr Golintovskii, in 53.45.
“I knew from the beginning, when Boki went out so quickly this morning, that it was going to be a tough final for me,” Bouwer said after the event.
“I went out too slowly and if I’d just gone out half a second faster, I would have had the gold, because I came back really strongly.
“These things happen and I got a silver medal so I’m really happy.”
Bouwer was only halfway through his gruelling schedule and still had the 100m backstroke, 400m freestyle and 200m individual medley to follow.
“It’s exhausting to swim five days on the trot, with the heats in the morning and then the finals.
“It’s not your normal routine so you get really tired.”
Boki, scheduled to compete in all the same events as Bouwer, arrived on the scene in 2010 and held the world record in all three races.
“He’s an amazing swimmer and he’s only 18 years old,” said Bouwer.
“For Belarus to deliver a swimmer of that magnitude is fantastic.
“It will be very tough for me, but I beat him in the 50m and I like to compete so we’ll see what happens.”
Bouwer said his coach had advised him not to be distracted by his first gold medal and to focus on one event at a time.
“I spoke to my coach after the race and he told me to forget about the gold, just to lock it away.
“But, in some ways, winning a gold gives you the motivation to do it all again. I have to find that winning feeling again.”
At just 22 years of age, Bouwer was competing in this third Paralympic Games. He went to Athens aged only 14 and then took part in the 2008 Beijing Games where he won a gold medal in the men’s 400m freestyle S13.
Born in Kimberley, Bouwer grew up on a farm where he used to swim in the large dam on the property.
“When I was about 14, my mother screamed at me to get out of the dam but I refused. So she jumped in after me and I started racing to the wall.
“That’s when we discovered I was quite fast and she sent me off to swimming lessons.”
Classified as an S13 visually impaired swimmer, his genetic disorder was discovered when he was a young boy.
“I can see everything that a normal human being can see, but I can’t see it in the same detail,” Bouwer explained.
“If I look at a billboard, for example, I can see it’s a billboard but I won’t be able to tell you exactly what’s on it.
“If I want to read something I have to bring it really, really close to my face.
“It started when I was 10 years old, or that’s when my teachers at school first noticed it.
“It has stabilised for the moment and I’m happy I can remain in the S13 class.
“There is a lot of competition and I love it and there are always new guys coming in, which makes it much more fun.
“Why would you want to win without some good competition?” - Sapa