Hard work and perseverance have paid off for a teenage swimmer who has made it into the South African Olympic team.
Pieter Coetzé (16) has qualified to compete as a senior swimmer in the 100-metre backstroke at the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.
Coetzé, from Tshwane, qualified after winning his race during the SA Invitational Aquatic Championships in Gqeberha last month.
He is the first junior in South Africa to qualify for a senior swimming team. Well-known swimmers Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh were 20 when they did so.
A Grade 11 scholar at Cornwall Hill College in Centurion, Coetzé says he was not an avid swimmer at first.
“I started swimming when I was nine. As I got older, I grew fond of the sport. I soon realised that the harder I trained, the better I became. This became a great motivator as I liked seeing the results that came with harder training.”
After participating in numerous galas and winning, Coetzé soon realised that the dream to become part of the South African Olympic team was not so far-fetched.
Seeing the vast potential their son possessed, Coetze’s parents advised him to get professional coaching.
He is now part of TuksSwimming at the University of Pretoria, under the wing of internationally renowned coach Rocco Meiring.
“Honestly, I have been training all my life for this moment, but in 2019 the #RoadToTokyo started becoming a reality when I started making some big time drops in my races. It really started looking attainable to be part of the next Olympicteam,” says Coetzé.
The road to his dream has not always been smooth, as he missed the chance to qualify for the games five times – twice in the 200-metre backstroke and three times in the 100-metre backstroke.
Juggling school and practice has also been hard. “My family helps me not to lose track of what is important, because there is life after swimming. I need something to fall back on. The school has also been very helpful,” he says.
As Coetzé prepares for the Olympics, he says his long-term ambition is to be one of the best.
“I definitely want to be a medallist at the Olympics one day. I also want to be one of the top swimmers in the world.”
The Olympic Games takes place from 23 July to 8 August.