JOHANNESBURG – The future of South African swimming looks bright with a lot riding on 14-year-old prodigy Rebecca Meder.
The Cape Town native was the standout female at the recent South African senior championships in Durban.
Meder won five individual gold medals in the 1 500m, 800m, 200m freestyle and in the 400m and 200m individual medley while finishing second in the 400m freestyle.
The Grade 9 Edgemead High School pupil has developed from a water-hating baby to one of the country’s greatest swimming prospects.
Shortly after she started swimming and getting a taste for winning, the goal-driven teen looked at earning the highest honour in the sport.
“It has always been my dream (to go to Tokyo 2020) ever since I started swimming in 2011,” Meder said.
“I hated water, I couldn’t put my face in water, I used to scream every time I did put my face in the water. So my dad says it is very ironic that I now love the water.”
With her head now firmly in the right place, Rebecca looks to translate her potential into something special.
“I want to get better and better each year. In order to achieve long-term goals, you have to set short-term goals and once you start reaching those, you are almost on track,” Meder said.
“It boosts you, it motivates you to go harder and get stronger for the next season.”
Meder’s long-time coach Bianca Marais believes her charge will be able to make the transition to the big leagues.
“I have to believe she is mentally in a place where she is handling the pressure and the stress really well while she is swimming beautifully, and I believe we can continue that trend,” said Marais.
The versatile Meder has not specialised yet, but has shown a keen interest in the individual medley, highlighting her ability over all four strokes.
While she has shown a propensity to race any event, Rebecca prefers the 400m IM.
Meder won her first senior medal at last year’s championships when she finished third in the 400m IM, and her dad has reserved a special place for it among her glowing collection of medals.
“At the moment her strengths are the IMs and the freestyles, she has a good spectrum over the freestyle, so we haven’t even come close to deciding where we are going to go with her,” said Marais.
“We are going to keep that base broad so that when she perhaps goes through that plateau, we can go wherever her strengths are.”
Although Meder has her sights set on Tokyo in 2020, in the meantime there’s the Youth Commonwealth Games on her agenda in the Bahamas in June this year, and the world junior championships in America in August.
Taking inspiration from Chad le Clos, who won his 200m butterfly Olympic gold medal on her birthday, Rebecca hopes to emulate one of the country’s greatest swimmers ever.
“When Chad won his gold medal on my birthday, I asked my dad where are the 2020 Olympics, because that’s where I’m going,” she said.