Waters sports came out with the top honours in the Seychelles Best Sportsmen award, with sailor Allain Julie and swimmer Alexus Laird winning the trophies of best sportsman and best sports lady on Friday.
Julie made history as the most decorated sportsmen in the history of the award, winning for the seventh time.
“To win this title seven times was not a 100-meter dash but it was a marathon. It shows that I have persevered until today. Even at this age, I have advanced a little bit more in my career than before to be able to win this title,” Julie told reporters.
Julie succeeds fellow sailor Rodney Govinden, who won the award in 2015, and this time came out fourth.
For Laird, this is the first time she wins the Best Sports Lady title. Laird, who is in training with her new South African Seagulls club, was not present in the award ceremony. Her great uncle, Pierre Grandcourt, received the award on her behalf
Speaking to SNA via Facebook, Laird said, “I cannot put into words how excited I am for winning the sports woman of the year, it is such a huge accomplishment for me, considering I was amongst so many deserving ladies.”
Laird added that “I know each one of us has put countless hours of work into our respective sports and being chosen is such an honour.”
The swimmer took over from high jumper Lissa Labiche, who was the runner-up for the title.
“With my results in Rio and at the African Games, I knew I would be in the running for winning the title but I was not sure if Lissa would win as I know she had an amazing year as well,” said Laird.
The Best Sportsman and Best Sports Lady award ceremony is an annual event recognizing athletes who have excelled in their sports discipline in Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean.
This year it took place Friday evening at the Berjaya Beau Vallon Bay Hotel in the north of the main island, Mahe, in front of a crowd of around 700 guests coming to witness one of the most prestigious events of the year.
Young tennis player Damien Laporte won the Young Male Athlete of the Year award, while swimmer Felicite Passon retained her title as the Young Female Athlete of the Year.
For the two athletes, Julie and Laird, winning the award is a culmination of their outstanding performances last year.
Julie described 2016 as a very challenging year since he had chosen to compete in the Finn dinghy category for the Rio Games, a completely new category for him. He came out 23rd overall.
“I had to sacrifice myself and eat a lot in order to increase my weight to 100 kilos to be able to participate in Finn. Rio was a bit difficult since I had only three months in that category and with my physique, I could not do any better than that,” said Julie.
The sailor made up for Rio by winning a gold medal for Seychelles in the laser standard category at the African championship in Maputo, Mozambique.
In swimming, Laird single-handedly brought Seychelles to fourth place overall last year, in the medal standings at the African Championship in Bloemfontein, South Africa with four medals, which included gold medal in the 50-meter backstroke.
The bleeding of South African sporting talent to more lucrative markets is a hot topic at the moment, particularly on the rugby and cricket fronts.
Rugby players have been doing it for years and the sport’s seemingly endless production line has made it easier to cope, while the recent Kolpak deals in cricket has shifted the focus to that sport.
In December last year, national coach Roger Barrow confirmed to The Star that he had been offered a position as head coach of Australia’s men’s and women’s national rowing teams.
Fortunately for South Africa, the 2016 World Rowing Coach of the Year declined the offer due to family commitments.
Uprooting his young family where they would be stripped of their support system while he is away for long stints ultimately convinced him to stay.
It was the ideal opportunity for one of the brightest young coaches in the sport where he would have had all the support and funds his heart desired.
Barrow put his heart and soul into the South African rowing programme that has reached unprecedented heights over two Olympic cycles, which included a gold and a silver medal.
“It would have been awesome as a challenge and being in an environment where you have everything,” Barrow said.
“I would have loved the experience and see myself as a coach grow in an environment like that. To leave what we’ve done would have been hard because I believe we have so much to grow.”
South Africa still has not truly realised what it has in Barrow and, for that matter, many other coaches from other sporting codes who are just like the athletes on other countries’ radars.
While we are happy to dish out national contracts to keep our top rugby players in the country, we are not doing enough to keep our top coaching talent in the country.
For Barrow it was never about the money but more about the facilities and support Australia were willing to provide that made the offer enticing.
Some of South Africa’s top rugby coaches are abroad, where they are seen as an asset improving the game abroad while it is dying a slow death here.
National swimming coach Graham Hill has had similar offers but we’ve somehow managed to keep hold of him.
In athletics there is a lack of young coaches coming through while ageing stalwarts battle to make ends meet.
Former national hurdles coach Hennie Kotze packed up for the umpteenth time to coach in the Middle East, leaving his local athletes in disarray.
While it is regrettable that the athletes have to suffer, it is also understandable why he would take up a lucrative offer at the drop of a hat.
South Africa just doesn’t seem to have a culture of looking after its coaches. Perhaps it is a global problem and it is merely the exchange rate that makes it easier to attract our top talent.
Athletics SA have vowed to offer greater support to local coaches, while the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) have also made an effort to develop local talent through the SA Coaching Framework.
We may be producing better coaches through these initiatives but it does not necessary put food on the tables for the ones who are successful.
If we do not look after our top coaching talent it will have a knock-on effect on the quality of athletes we produce.
Legendary Zimbabwean swimmer, Kirsty Coventry says she is encouraged by efforts to develop the sport at grassroots level and feels vindicated for choosing to return home after her retirement.
Coventry was in Bulawayo yesterday, where she was the guest of honour at the official opening of Petra High School’s new swimming pool.
Speaking at the function, the multiple Olympic medal winner said: “This is encouraging and it makes my decision to come back to our beautiful country, so much easier when you see things like this come together.
“To see something like this come to life just shows the community strength when people come together for a common goal and for common good. That good is only going to encourage our youths and our kids to make an impact.”
Coventry is Africa’s most decorated Olympian after accumulating seven Olympic medals during her illustrious career.
She took time to race against upcoming swimmers from both Petra Primary and Petra High schools after the official opening ceremony.
Former Education minister David Coltart, in his address when introducing Coventry, said she possessed three characteristics that propelled her to greatness.
“Kirsty’s achievements are a result of sheer determination, humility and patriotism. Some athletes are so consumed with their own importance, but Kirsty is very considerate of others and we appreciate what she means to us and our great nation,” he said.
Petra School board chairman, Ian Connolly said the swimming pool would not only benefit the school, but the whole Bulawayo community.
“We are very excited to have this facility and that’s a facility not just for Petra, but for the community and that is how we want it to be seen, as something that is not just celebrating us as a school, but it’s celebrating this Bulawayo community,” he said.
Matabeleland Swimming Board chairperson, Nokuthula Cyprianos concurred with Connolly and said the new pool would help grow the sport in the region.
Also present during the ceremony was national cricket team coach, Heath Streak, whose son Harry was part of the swimmers that took to the pool with Coventry yesterday.
Despite the millions of competitors across the globe, Christine Jennings recently discovered the world of swimming is very small.
Now living and working in Lausanne, Switzerland, for the past year, she’s run into teammates and friends in airports and at swim meets in the states and abroad – reminding her that swimmers and swimming are omnipresent.
“I attended my first meet here in Lausanne in December 2015 and ran into Michael Andrew, who I met at Pan Pacific Championships in 2014 when open water was moved to Maui,” she said. “I also ran into Jessica Hardy in the airport in Zurich as I was traveling home for Christmas. It’s definitely a small world.”
What isn’t small are Jennings’ accomplishments in the water – open water in particular.
She finished fourth in the 10K at 2014 Open Water Nationals to earn a spot on the U.S. roster for the 2014 Pan Pacific Championships and finished sixth in the 25K and 10th in the 10K at the 2013 FINA World Championships.
During her career, Jennings also took top honors at the U.S. Open Water Championship in 2013, won gold at the 2010 Pan Pacific Championships and won the 19-kilometer BCT Gdynia Marathon competition in Poland and Faros Marathon in Croatia in 2013, setting a course record in the process and proving she’s one of the best open water competitors in the world.
“I think 2013 U.S. Nationals was the best race of my life,” she said. “I was also in the best shape, and thanks to my coach, Grant Holicky, was in the right frame of mind going into that race. In Croatia, I held onto the men in the race and broke the record by a crazy 10 minutes or so. I was really proud of myself for that.”
Injuries – including a traumatic, freak broken leg in 2011 while running toward the finish line at the Rei e Rainha do Mar Open Water race on Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro – took their toll on her mentally and physically over the past few years and ultimately led to her retirement in late 2015.
Since then, she completed her Master’s degree in sports administration and started working at World Archery as a development coordinator. She works primarily on Olympic solidarity programs/projects for athletes, coaches and National Olympic Committees worldwide.
And even though she admitted a couple of years ago that she didn’t think her career would be complete without adding Olympian to her stellar resume, Jennings now realizes she accomplished a lot during her career and left it behind with a strong sense of pride.
“I am proud of many things in my career, but I think the fact that I never gave up is what I’m most proud of,” she said. “I didn’t exactly know it was, per say, the right time or not (to retire). I didn’t like the idea, but after so many injuries, I was exhausted and needed a break for my body and my mind. I felt led to explore different opportunities, and I wanted to work in an area where I could give back to sport.
“In my heart, I felt it was a huge opportunity, and I am so thankful I took that risk to go. I will be trying out some Swiss Master’s competitions this summer, as my love to compete and swim is still alive. I still swim, but nowhere near what I did before.”
Jennings’ path to world swimming success began when she was just 8 months old largely out of necessity and safety.
“We were in Hawaii, and I had just learned to run (before walking apparently), and I took off one time straight into a pool and another time into the ocean chasing after my brother,” she said. “I guess you could say I forced my parents to put me in lessons.”
Even as a youngster, Jennings said she was drawn to open water competition more than pool meets.
She competed in her first open water race (which is now named for her) in Clemson, S.C., and her second race was during her junior year at the University of Minnesota when she made her first World Championship team after coming back from shoulder surgery.
She immediately loved the challenge associated with swimming an “open,” free-for-all type of race that wasn’t confined to lane lines or walls.
“Open water is beautiful; it involves strategy, not only during your own race, but with everyone else,” she said. “It is constantly changing, and one never knows what can happen. It’s pretty amazing.”
Very happy with her life today away from the sport, Jennings said she looks back on her career with no regrets, although she does wish she had made the Olympic team after coming close many times.
She admits for a while, she would question God about why this happened or why she got hurt or why she didn’t make a team when she trained really hard and felt more than prepared.
But over time, she said she realized each hardship, loss and disappointment ultimately strengthened her faith and gave her perspective about swimming and life that she continues to see today.
“It took some time to process the disappointment, but I never let it become who I am,” she said. “You know, we never remember how easy it was, but we always remember how we overcame those hard times. It’s what shaped me as a person and has given me the strength to overcome no matter what I am faced with.
“I am enjoying life and my career is taking me on another amazing journey. Sometimes what we thought was our path we find out that God has something even better in store for us. I believe this is all in His plan and timing and I’m just enjoying it one step at a time. I am happy, and even though I don’t know what the future holds, whatever it may be, I’m looking forward to it.”
Swimming Australia, the governing body for aquatic sports in the country, has confirmed an apparel deal with swimwear supplier Arena.
The contract commences immediately and sees the brand become the official swimwear supplier of the Australian Dolphins swimming team for the next four years, covering the Fina World Aquatics Championships in Budapest this year and in Gwangju, South Korea in 2019, as well as the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.
“We will be working closely with Arena to further enhance our elite performances in the pool over the coming four-year cycle, as we seek continuous improvement and the world’s best partners to assist us in the next stage of our development,” said Swimming Australia chief executive Mark Anderson.
“We are looking forward to further improving our elite performances wearing arena products, but also helping the arena business grow and develop here in Australia.”
Australian swimmers took home three gold medals at 2016’s Summer Olympic Games in Rio, in addition to the seven golds they claimed at the last World Championships in Kazan, Russia in 2015.
Heading into a pair home dual meets on Saturday, the Arizona State men’s and women’s swimming teams match up more evenly with Stanford this year than they have in quite some time.
The No. 12 Sun Devils men’s squad is coming off a hot season a year ago and is looking to keep its momentum rolling on Senior Day in Tempe, AZ, against the visiting eighth-ranked Cardinal. The unranked ASU women face a difficult task in No. 2 Stanford, which has one of the best teams in decades, highlighted by Katie Ledecky and Simone Manuel team. Below we take a look at some of the swimmers you will want to keep an eye on as this meet goes down in the desert.
5 Arizona State Swimmers to Watch
As a senior, Bohus is having a career year for the Sun Devils. The sprint specialist had a mid-year performance surprisingly highlighted by a quick 1:41 in the 200-yard backstroke. Look for him to contribute on relays as well as in the 100 and possibly 200 events.
The 2016-17 star child of Tempe, AZ, Cameron Craig, has made an immediate impact on the recent success of this team. With event capabilities ranging from the 50 freestyle to the 200 IM, Craig will need to come away with two or more event wins if the Sun Devils men have a chance at winning. His winter invite performances in the 200 freestyle and 200 IM have attracted the attention of swim fans across the country, but we’ll see if he can continue to compete throughout the remainder of the year.
A sprint leader and senior on the Sun Devils, Alysha Bush has been the head of the 50/100 free combo for a few seasons now. No stranger to being in tight races, Bush will need to win one or both of the short sprints to keep these Sun Devil women in contention.
Coming off of Rio, Simonovic is prepped and ready to have one of the best seasons of her career. The 500/200 freestyler will have her hands full going up against the duo of Manuel and Ledecky, but the international racing experience will help keep the nerves at ease.
The South African IM/breaststroke specialist brings much-needed stroke depth to the Sun Devils women. Likely to swim the 200 breast/IM combo, Ross will play an important part in tackling this talented Stanford team.
5 Stanford Swimmers to Watch
Ledecky has dominated this season and is having one of, if not the, greatest collegiate seasons of all time. American records have fallen, team records have been destroyed, and we’re only halfway done with her freshman year. Although we don’t expect Ledecky to come in and drop an American record, she’s one to keep an eye on as every time she hits the pool…she’s going to give it her all.
After the summer season of her life in Rio, Manuel has come back down to NCAA swimming and continued to impress. Just looking at her times at the Ohio State Invitational (see below) she is on track for a killer year… 50 free: 21.78, 100 free: 47.37, 200 free: 1:41.90.
The sprint star for the Stanford men’s squad showed up in a big way at the Texas Invite earlier this year. He cranked out an 18.86 50 freestyle on the tail end of the 200 medley relay, elevating the relay team to a second-place finish in the event. He’s going to be tough to handle for the Sun Devils in the 50/100 distances.
Kremer, who actually trained at ASU this during the 2015-16 season, is a 200 specialist. The 1:33 200 freestyler ranges out into the 200 butterfly, 200 IM, and some of the shorter distances including the 50 and 100 freestyle as well. The versatility he brings to the table plays a key role in dual meet success as some swimmers need to be moved around depending on the situation.
Sweester had a great winter invite in Texas, popping off a 1650 freestyle time of 14:35.03, which was an A qualifying standard and solidified his spot at the NCAA Championships this year. He will definitely have an impact on the mid to distance freestyle events against the Sun Devils.
Olympic Champion Adam Peaty has received his 2016 FINA Best Male Olympic Swimming Performance Award from British Swimming National Performance Director Chris Spice.
Peaty, who was training in his new base at Loughborough University in England, received the award alongside his two world record certificates achieved in 2016.
He proved himself the fastest breaststroker in history when he set world records in the heat and final of the 100m Breaststroke in the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. To win his gold medal he set 57.13 as the new standard.
The triple World Champion has officially moved to the National Centre, Loughborough alongside his coach Mel Marshall and is enjoying the excellent facilities.
Marshall started as Lead Coach of the National Centre at the end of December and Peaty has enjoyed a large block of training alongside his new team.
“It’s a massive honour to receive my award and certificates,” Peaty said. “It’s a really prestigious award and I can’t thank FINA enough for giving it to me. I’m really proud to have my certificates of my world records too.”
“It’s great that this was done in my new training base. I have used the facilities at the University for a while but to officially be part of the team at the National Centre is great. We have a strong set up and I am excited about the future.”
National Performance Director Chris Spice commented: “What Adam achieved in 2016 was phenomenal and I’m pleased to give him these accolades in recognition of his year.”
Even before she made a ripple in the pool at the Rio Olympic Games, there were signs Cate Campbell had given about all she could to an expectant public and media.
Sitting in front of hundreds of journalists just days before the flame was lit at the Maracana Stadium, flanked by Dolphins teammates, the usually effervescent Campbell was stony-faced, looking as if she’d rather be anywhere but the place that had been the singular focus of her entire career.
She dead-batted yet another question about what it was like to race sister Bronte, as well as how she was handling the pressure of being a white-hot favourite in the 100-metres freestyle, an event in which she had just demolished a world record that for so long looked impervious to non-supersuited athletes.
“I gave a lot to Australia during the Olympics. I gave a lot of myself. I’m actually quite a private person, an introverted person. I’m quite shy. I think that Australia saw many sides of me, some of which I would have liked to keep more private,” Campbell says. “I want to give people what they want, but it can be to the detriment of what I want.”
What Campbell wanted was individual gold, to step up to the plate with the clinical zen of an Ian Thorpe, a Michael Phelps or a Katie Ledecky and leave the world in her wake. And for a while, everything went according to plan.
Her anchor leg in the 4x100m relay sealed team gold in record time, while her heat and semi-final swims leading up to the 100m finale pointed to the victory so many had predicted. It failed to materialise, with Campbell swimming almost a second outside her best to miss the medals.
The response was raw and heartbreaking. When she said it was “the greatest choke in Olympic history”, she was only half joking. Later, in Australia, Campbell would shed more tears and say she was “ashamed” of her efforts, despite a small army of friends, family, colleagues and supporters assuring her that the globe would still turn.
For someone so accustomed to being in command of her physical and mental output, the depths were real and worrying. Now, after months of contemplation, rehabilitation of the body and mind, the 24-year-old from Brisbane has emerged from the mist.
She has allowed herself to release the iron-grip on her professional life and indulge outside of the pool, something Campbell struggled to do amid the exclusive focus on the Games, which has consumed most of her adult life.
There were mountain hikes, snowfields, adrenalin rushes and a social calendar that included the Melbourne Cup and this week, the Australian Open. It has been imperative to her healing.
“I’ve enjoyed doing things I haven’t been able to do in a decade. I went hiking, and skiing, and skydiving. I did all these things I’ve always wanted to do, things I never allowed myself to do because of my commitment to swimming.
“And if I injured myself, I’ve got four years to recover. I lived without limits for a little because swimming can have a lot of boundaries. I removed those and rediscovered who I was without swimming.”
The changes to her life have been gradual but meaningful. For the first time, Cate and Bronte, always joined at the hip, will strike out on their own and move into separate houses. And Cate has pulled back mightily on social media, sharing less and retaining more for those that know her best.
“I’ve just decided to take a step back. One of the things is I always feel like I have to justify myself to people. And I feel like I do that on social media. When I post things, I always wonder how it would be received or viewed. I think I just got tired of thinking about that all the time.
“I want some time for myself. I was very public for a while. I’m honest, so I always want to answer honestly. In doing that, I always give a bit of myself. I gave a lot of really, honest, hard answers after Rio. I need to fill my own cup up a little bit.”
Always overly obliging with fans, sponsors and media, Campbell has even discovered a new word, one that hasn’t been as difficult to pronounce as she had previously imagined: NO.
“I’m a ‘yes’ person but I’ve started to get pretty good at saying ‘no’. It’s been quite liberating. People don’t take it personally so for me that’s been a big thing.”
Campbell looked lean and relaxed as she helped launch Australia’s new partnership with swimwear brand Arena in Melbourne this week. Now training in her world record pool at Chandler, she has nudged closer to a full program.
But the expectations she has placed on herself are no longer perched on her broad shoulders. She would like to swim in this year’s FINA world championships in Hungary but won’t obsess about her prospects.
“I want to go another four years. Lock it in. But I can’t make it to Tokyo if I don’t relax and enjoy life a little bit. I’ll still train, I’ll still swim … but when opportunities come up, I’ll enjoy it. And even if this year suffers a bit, I’ll be better for it in 2020.
“If I’m not back to 100 per cent this year, not back to the world’s best … I’ll cut myself some slack. I always expect to be at my best but that’s not sustainable all the time.”
Campbell has come to terms with what went down in Rio, not that it won’t still itch from time to time. Mostly, she has become content with the idea of not being content, as well as a reality that for a time she refused to see.
“I realised I did achieve some things last year … I broke a world record, a supersuit world record. I was part of a relay team that broke a world record. I swam well in a medley relay to help us win a medal.
“I held it together – I had a big meltdown afterwards – but I did my job first. It’s not all doom and gloom.
“Cheer up, Campbell.”
No one was keener than world record-holder Cate Campbell to see the back of 2016. She even went to New Zealand for New Year’s Eve, where 2017 arrived two hours earlier.
“In 2016, I became the poster girl for failure,’’ Campbell said, reflecting on an emotional Rio Olympic campaign in which she had to reconcile winning a gold medal with her sister Bronte in the 4x100m freestyle relay, then flopping in the individual 100m freestyle as the hot favourite.
“I don’t think I will ever fully come to terms with it, but I’m OK with it now,’’ she said at the launch of Swimming Australia’s swimwear sponsor, Arena.
“More people fail than succeed, so I want to inspire people to get up and try because it takes courage to get up and try at a high level. It’s made me look at failure in a different way because not everything in life goes your way.
“It’s a hard world out there. In life you can be a participant or a casualty and I refuse to be a casualty.’’
In hindsight, Campbell believes she was crushed by her own desperation to succeed.
“I was underprepared for how much I had poured into the sport and how much it meant to me,’’ she said. “I am an all-or-nothing person and swimming controlled every aspect of my life.’’
Campbell said she felt stronger for the experience, although she “wouldn’t wish it on anyone’’.
“If I could go back and change it, I would,” she said. “But in a way it’s been a very liberating feeling, knowing that everything you feared happened, because you know you can live through what you were scared of.
“For a while, I was embarrassed about crying on TV (after the race) and having a meltdown, but now I think it’s OK for people to see when you’re heartbroken. Maybe that will help someone else.’’
She said she had spent the past few months getting some balance back into her life, travelling, hiking, going to the Melbourne Cup and this week the Australian Open, where she and Bronte met one of their sporting idols, Rafael Nadal.
“I’m trying not to let swimming become everything again,’’ she said.
She also had surgery in October to repair the hernia she carried secretly into Rio.
It was the second time she had developed a hole in her abdominal wall and her surgeon put a mesh panel over the weak spot to prevent any further recurrence.
She finally returned to training this month and said she was surprised by how much she was enjoying it. “I missed it,’’ she said. “The new year helped to clear my head and gave me some new experiences and that was really important.’’
She plans to return to competition at the NSW championships next month.
Like Campbell, Swimming Australia (SAL) is making a new start, announcing yesterday Italian-based swimwear manufacturer Arena would sponsor the national team for the next four years.
SAL announced last month that its 70-year partnership with Speedo, which established the Australian-founded company as an international brand, was ending.
Arena already sponsors many of the best-known swimmers individually, including the Campbell sisters, Mitch Larkin and Emily Seebohm.
College coaches Dave Durden and Greg Meehan will serve as head coaches for the U.S. team at the world swimming championships this summer.
Durden, the men’s coach at California, will oversee the American men. Meehan, who coaches the Stanford women’s team, will lead the U.S. women.
The two men guided swimmers to 18 medals at the 2016 Rio Olympics, where Durden and Meehan were assistants.
Meehan coaches five-time Olympic gold medalist Katie Ledecky at Stanford, where she is a freshman.
National team director Frank Busch announced their selections on Thursday.
The swimming portion of the world championships will be July 23-30 in Budapest, Hungary.