Durban - Former Olympic swimmer Terence Parkin says giving up has “never been an option” for him.
And this winning mindset applies to his latest ultra marathon challenge which will see him cover over 1 120km - cycling from Johannesburg and then competing in the Midmar Mile and the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon - all for charity.
Speaking to the Independent on Saturday this week, the deaf Olympic medallist said his gruelling 12-day multi-sport journey starts on February 4.
He will leave from the St Vincent School for the Deaf in Johannesburg on a five-day mountain bike cycle which will see him complete a 903km ride ending at Midmar Dam.
He will swim 17km in the aQuelle Midmar Mile and then run from Midmar Dam to Camps Drift (80km) for the start of the Dusi marathon, which is another 120km over three days.
Speaking on the similar challenge he completed last year, which covered just over 900km, Parkin said this year he wanted to push himself further and would run an additional 50km and cycle another estimated 150km.
“For years I’ve wanted to do an extreme challenge between Johannesburg and Durban without using any engines, but my own power. When the planets of Midmar and Dusi aligned, I saw an opportunity. When I arrived at the sea at the end of last year’s challenge, I can’t tell you the absolute sense of achievement that I felt,” he said.
Parkin said the weather had played havoc last year.
“From Clarens to Afriski, there were so many different weather conditions on the same day, rain in the morning to the border, then incredibly hot and at the ascent to Afriski, it was freezing. That was very hard,” he said, while the last 10km of his ride from Afriski to Underberg was done in heavy rain.
“That part was extremely difficult. This year I know the route a lot better, although I cannot control the weather, so I’ll just have to go with that. But I will pace myself better so I can rest more along the route”.
With further distance to conquer this year, he has been training all year, and to add a little more bite to the challenge, he has made the route “a bit harder”.
“I feel fitter than last year. I don’t have a set programme for training but just follow what my body feels like doing on any given day, so there’s no formal timetable.”
And when reaching that tough point when it’s difficult to continue, how does he push himself?
“Giving up is not an option and the tougher it is, the more determined I am to finish. Once completed the feeling of achievement is indescribable.”
And while Parkin took some time to relax and slow down during the recent holiday season, there was no such thing as stopping.
“Wherever we went, I made sure that I fitted in some form of training like a morning run, afternoon cycle or a swim in the dam,” he said.
Asked if he follows a specialised diet, he laughed, saying: “No, I just eat normally. Whatever my wife cooks, I’ll eat it.”
At the 2000 Summer Olympics Parkin brought home a silver medal for breaststroke.
He has also racked up 29 gold medals from Deaflympics and holds 50 Deaf World records in long and short course swimming.
After winning a medal at the 2000 Olympics, he said “it was vitally important for me to go to show that the deaf can do anything. They can’t hear, they can see everything. I would like to show the world that there’s opportunities for the deaf”.
He became known in the swimming world as the “Silent Torpedo” and after his swimming career, took up triathlons and cycling.
And it is these extreme events, where his perseverance and sheer determination shine through and where he has raised funds for a number of charities.
He is an ambassador for the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation and said the funds raised for this year’s multi-sport challenge would go towards swimming safety, as well as extending free CPR and first aid training at schools for the deaf and disabled.