Skip to content
Feb 10 19

Lighting the way from behind: A lesson for Coaches and Parents

by ZwemZa

Photo Credit: CBS News

My father died rather suddenly and unexpectedly from a late-diagnosed, very aggressive, inoperable brain tumor. I gave the eulogy at his funeral, and one day while mowing the yard I was thinking about what I wanted to say. For some reason, Dad following me in the truck so I could run in the headlights kept popping into my head, but I couldn’t figure out exactly why.

Suddenly it hit me, and I stopped mowing dead in my tracks.

I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen it before.

Dad following me in the pickup wasn’t just a simple act allowing me to run. It was a parable with some invaluable lessons. Right away, two things jumped out that made Dad’s simple act of following me in the truck much more profound and meaningful.

The first thing I realized was something that Dad didn’t do. He didn’t tell me I had to run. He didn’t tell me that if I didn’t run I was going to get my butt kicked by my competitors. He didn’t say he was going to be disappointed in me if I didn’t run. All he did was remove a barrier to me being able to run that I couldn’t eliminate myself. Everything else was up to me. It was up to me to have the passion and discipline to come home after being at a forensics tournament all day, change into multiple layers of clothes and go out into the cold night to run on snow-packed roads. Dad was smart enough to know that you can’t make someone want to do something, but he was also smart enough to know that sometimes even motivated people need a little bit of help removing barriers that they cannot remove themselves.

The second thing Dad did was — both literally and figuratively — light the way from behind. Standing in the backyard, stopped in my tracks with the lawnmower still running, I realized that was a metaphor for how we as both coaches or parents need to approach our kids. It is so easy to fall into the trap of wanting to blaze the trail in front of them, removing all obstacles, giving them a straight, smooth road to “success” and showing our kid to the world. This trap takes many different forms, and none of them is helpful to the kid or flattering to the parents or coaches who do it.

It is not helpful to the kids or athletes because they don’t learn how to overcome challenges when the road is made entirely smooth for them, and all difficulties, learning opportunities, and need for self-motivation are removed from their path. By doing so, they are denied the opportunities to develop the grit and tenacity that are the essential precursors to fulfilling their potential.

It isn’t flattering to the parents or coaches who do it because — let’s just be brutally honest here — those parents and coaches are making the kid or athlete’s success about them, not about the kid or athlete. They’re calling more attention to what they did for the kid or athlete’s success than what the kid did themselves. Think about it like this: If a coach or parent is lighting the way from the front, the coach or parent with the light is the first thing people would see, with the kid being second, obscured behind them. But if a coach or parent lights the way from behind, the kid is the first thing someone would see, and that is as it should be.

Rod Murrow

Feb 10 19

No. 17 Men’s ASU Swim/Dive downs No. 15 Wildcats in Tucson

by ZwemZa


In a tense meet that came down to the final relay, No. 17 Sun Devils men’s swimming and diving defeated the No. 15 Arizona Wildcats, 159.5-140.5, on Saturday afternoon at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center.


The men notched seven individual and one relay win in the meet, highlighted by Zach Poti’s wins in the 100 and 200 back. The senior has now swept the backstroke events three times this season, including last time out against Stanford. Grant House (200 free), Evan Carlson (50 free), Carter Swift (100 free), Youssef Selim (1 meter) and David Hoffer (3 meter) rounded out the ASU individual victories.

In addition to their top marks, the Sun Devils also had 25 podium finishes in the competition, five of those finishes put up by freshmen. Freshmen Noah Henry (100 back, 200 back), Cody Bybee (100 fly, 200 fly) and Khalil Fonder (100 fly) all contributed to the win. Seven men also set personal bests in their final regular season meet.


Individual Wins (7):
Zach Poti (100 back, 200 back)
Grant House (200 free)
Evan Carlson (50 free)
Carter Swift (100 free)
Youssef Selim (1M)
David Hoffer (3M)

Personal Bests (9):
Cody Bybee: 47.48 in 100 fly
Noah Desman: 50.43 in 100 fly
Noah Henry: 48.69 in 100 back | 1:45.69 in 200 back
Matthew Kint: 9:21.61 in 1000 free
Gage Kohner: 20.05 in 50 free
Jack Little: 4:29.24 in 500 free | 9:16.88 in 1000 free
Youssef Selim: 393.15 in one meter


In a meet that began with a facility dedication and senior day festivities, the Sun Devil men came out firing from the beginning. After placing second in the 200 medley relay by just four-tenths of a second, Ben Olszewski followed by racing to a second place finish in the 1000 free to earn the mens’ first individual podium finish on the afternoon.

Sophomore Grant House followed in the next event with an exclamation point, taking first place in the 200 free by over one second. Carter Swift and Liam Bresette touched the wall soon after to add points for ASU.

Zach Poti notched a win of his own just minutes later, this time taking the top mark in the 100 back. Poti now totals three wins in that event this season, while Noah Henry added his first podium finish this year with a personal best of 48.69.

The Sun Devils notched third in both the 100 breast and 200 fly thanks to senior Danny Comforti and freshman Cody Bybee, respectively. Continuing his hot start to the season, sophomore Evan Carlson took gold in the 50 free and senior Gage Kohner finished a tenth of a second later in second place.

With the win, the Sun Devils headed into the first break trailing by one point, 66-65.

Over in the diving well, Youssef Selim and David Hoffer continued their dominance this season, sweeping the top two marks with Selim taking first in the one-meter springboard with Hoffer taking second. The pair again swept the top two spots in the three-meter springboard, this time with Hoffer taking the top spot and Selim in second.

Olszewski notched another silver finish in the 500 free, and the freshmen duo of Cody Bybee and Khalil Fonder combined to go 2-3 in the 100 fly.

At the second break, the Sun Devils found themselves with a more promising lead, 140-124 lead.

With just two events left, the ASU sent four to the block for the 200 IM. In a race that came down to the wire, House missed out on first place by just one one-hundredth (0.01) of a second. Comforti contributed points when he tied for third place, but with the win the Wildcats closed the gap going into the final event.

Both teams lined the deck cheering for their relays as ASU sent its A and B squads to the block. The Sun Devil A team held a steady lead through the first three legs of the 400 free relay, but the Wildcats A squad made a push in the final 100 yards.

Anchor House found himself neck-and-neck with the Wildcats’ anchor, but House ultimately touched the wall first by half of a second to secure the win for ASU. ASU’s B squad also took third in the event to bring the score to its final of 159.5-140.5.


With the regular season coming to a close today, the Sun Devils turn their attention toward the postseason. Next up for the Sun Devils is the Pac-12 Championships in Federal Way, Washington. Fans can keep up the postseason action by following @ASUSwimDive on Twitter.

Feb 10 19

Runge, Nordin set ASU school records in loss to No. 21 Arizona

by ZwemZa

In their final regular season meet, the Sun Devil women’s swimming and diving squad fell to the No. 21 Arizona Wildcats, 180.5-119.5, on Saturday afternoon at the Hillenbrand Aquatic Center.


The Sun Devils were highlighted by Emma Nordin and Cierra Runge, who both broke school records in back-to-back events in Tucson. Nordin stepped to the block in the third event of the afternoon, the 1000 free, and touched the wall at 9:40.71, almost three seconds faster than Tristin Baxter’s record set in 2012. The mark was a personal best by nearly 30 seconds for Nordin, which she set last January at Cal.

Runge did the same in the very next event, downing Shannon Landgrebe’s seven-year old record in the 200 free with a time of 1:40.04, also a personal best.

Like Nordin, Kendall Dawson also had a showing in the 1000 free, as her time of 9:54.75 gave her possession of the 7th fastest time in school history. Several other Sun Devils wrote themselves in the record books as Chloe Isleta raced to the sixth-best time in school history in the 200 back today, giving her seven of the top-10 times. Isleta also added the No. 9 mark in school history in the 100 back during the meet.

Freshman Ruby Martin also contributed a top time in the 200 fly, as her time of 1:58.09 is the fifth-fastest time in ASU history. Fanny Teijonsalo rounded out the top times, contributing the No. 8 time in school history in the 100 fly at 54.05.

ASU notched five wins in the outing in the 200 free (Cierra Runge), one meter springboard (Ashley McCool), 200 back (Chloe Isleta), 200 breast (Silja Kansakoski) and 500 free (Runge). The Sun Devils also notched 20 podium finishes, including a sweep of the top-three spots in the 200 breast by Kansakoski, Marlies Ross and Nora Deleske.

Feb 9 19

Going the extra mile for Midmar, and into the history books

by ZwemZa

Founder of the Midmar Mile, Mike Arbuthnot, took to the water for the 46th time. (IOL)

It’s a challenge for everyone who dives into the water this weekend for the 2019 aQuellé Midmar Mile, but for Mike Arbuthnot, Rachael Rodd and Chad Gifford, the swim will be a special one.

Going into the history books, 86-year-old Arbuthnot, the founder of the Midmar Mile, will be the oldest swimmer in the race and will be competing for the 46th time. Ballito’s Rodd, at 6 years old, will be the youngest swimmer. Gifford, who lost his lower limbs in a car accident at a young age, will give the daunting 16 Mile race a shot after having gained his permanent number for the 8 Mile event.

Speaking to the Independent on Saturday this week, Gifford, a swimming coach in Port Shepstone on the KwaZulu-Natal South Coast, said the 16 Miler would be tough.

“I swim every day, normally between three and five kilometres, and have been training since last June, so I have built up slowly and am comfortable with my pace for this swim. I’ll push myself. I did the 8 Mile with no legs five times, so I think it’s possible. I love the endurance stuff,” he said, adding that he could well be the first person with no legs to take part in the 16 Mile event.

And competing does come with difficulties. Gifford remembered jumping into the water for his very first Midmar Mile race: “People swam right into my butt. For my first one I was physically fit, but people were swimming over me. I got dunked, I had to hold my breath and I spent a bit of time under the water looking at the plant life. At that time, I thought, ‘I am not coming back to this’, but then I got through it and it felt so cool, I came back.”

Having completed the 8 Mile five times, double amputee Chad Gifford, a swimming coach based in Port Shepstone on the KZN South Coast, will attempt the 16 Miler. (Supplied)

He has since taken part in the race 10 times – five of those being the 8 Mile event – getting his permanent number last year.

Meanwhile, the founder of the legendary event, Arbuthnot will swim with his grandchildren, Victoria Bux, 16, and Liam Hackland, 10. Recalling his first swim 46 years ago, Arbuthnot, who lives in Howick, said this week: “It started as a fun outing, when a group of boys swam out to the raft and back. Back then I used to swim the Buffalo Mile in East London on New Year’s Day with my other swimming club members. But petrol was restricted, with stations closed on the weekend, so that meant we had to spend two weeks in East London. So we thought, ‘Why don’t we start our own little swim?”

At first they approached Durban’s port captain with the idea of organising a swim from Salisbury Island (in the Port of Durban) to the beach. “The port captain said, ‘This is a commercial port, we can’t have people splashing about here’, so that’s when we had the idea to have the race at Midmar.

“It was a low key, local event for local swimmers and a picnic outing for families. I’m amazed how it’s grown,” said Arbuthnot.

The youngest competitor this year is 6-year-old Rachael Rodd, who said she had been eating a lot of carrots, which will help. (Supplied)

Rodd, the youngest swimmer at this year’s event, told the Independent on Saturday she was excited about the big swim. When asked if she had been training ahead of the event, she said: “Yes, I’ve been practising since I was 3. I can swim very fast and I can run fast too. I might get a little tired, but I don’t think I’ll get a stitch.”

She added that she had eaten a lot of carrots, which would be of enormous help.

Her mother, Dominique Donner-Rodd, who is a former South African triathlete and is a three-time winner of the aQuellé Midmar Mile in her age group, said she would swim alongside Rachael.

Donner-Rodd, who is the swim coach for North Coast Dolphins Club, will also be doing the 8 Mile Challenge, and has been raising funds for the Friends of Swimmers Trust.

The 46th aQuellé Midmar Mile, the world’s largest open-water swimming event, takes place today and tomorrow.

The weekend will see eight events, four today and four tomorrow.

Tanya Waterworth | Independent on Sunday

Feb 9 19

How Dean Boxall rose to be one of swimming’s new rockstar coaches

by ZwemZa

Intense character: Dean Boxall and Ariarne Titmus during a Dolphins team training camp in Cairns last year.Credit:AAP

Dean Boxall has been told more than a few times in his career to pull back on the theatrics, to tone down the emotion. With his long hair and boundless energy around pool deck, he knew there was a danger he wouldn’t fit in to the preconceptions of the Australian swimming hierarchy.

Yet if Boxall was a square peg, then so was the man so many have compared him to over the years, another larger-than-life coach that made an unforgettable impact in and beyond the sport when it seemed to be at the peak of its powers.

Always,” Boxall replies when asked if he ever gets compared to the irrepressible Laurie Lawrence. “I love it.”

At 41, Boxall is considered young in the ranks of elite swimming coaching, even if he’s been sending swimmers up and down the black line for almost 20 years, give or take the times he had to almost give up his dream when the finances didn’t match the ambition.

Now at the helm of the fabled St Peters Western program in Brisbane, where he took over from his mentor and great friend Michael Bohl, Boxall is one of the rising stars of the coaching ranks. When there was a chance to get Lawrence poolside ahead of the Commonwealth Games, he never hesitated.

“It was pissing down with rain,” Boxall recalls. “They [the swimmers] were doing time trials. He just started screaming ‘If this girl makes this time, I’m going out there! Get out here with me Dean!’

“We were both underneath the water, just pouring down, and he was ‘I love this! This is what it’s about!’.”

Powerhouse: Dean Boxall has helped Ariarne Titmus unlock her potential (PerthNow)

Boxall coaches like a hurricane and talks like a force of nature once he gets going. Born in Camps Bay in South Africa, where he stayed until his family settled in Brisbane when he was seven, he’s been in or around the water his entire life.

Now he finds himself in command of one of the nation’s most-respected elite programs and coaching the kind of swimmer that may only come along once in a generation, Ariarne Titmus.

But there were times when that sort of success seemed light years away for an eccentric coach that has never opened a swimming textbook and never ignores his gut if he feels something has, or could, go amiss.

“People might look at it as a negative but I’m not a well-read swimming coach. You have a plan but that plan often goes AWOL. There is always something that goes wrong,” Boxall says. “If I follow someone else’s philosophy and don’t have my core ideas… I lose my compass. I’ve never picked up a textbook about swimming technique. It’s more about feel and understanding and intuition.”

Deep down, Boxall always knew he could get through to swimmers and get them to respond to his urgings. All he needed to do was convince everyone else. Bohl, the gold-medal whisperer now on the Gold Coast, always had his back. And in Dolphins head coach Jacco Verhaeren, a no-nonsense Dutchman, he found another proponent.

“I never quite fit the mould,” Boxall says. “That’s why I will always be grateful to Jacco, because I don’t fit the mould. I never have.

“Bohly seemed to think I did and he believed in me. But not the hierarchy above. There were some tough guys up ahead and they didn’t think my personality would have suited. People were always worried I’d burn out. But I’ve had energy since the moment I was born.

“Jacco saw that there is a way for me to be who I am. I love Jacco. If he doesn’t agree with something, he’ll tell you. I appreciate that.”

Australian swimming should well appreciate Boxall, because his special bond with the brilliant Titmus may end up being one of its great stories. With the Tokyo Olympics bearing down at a rate of knots, the duo are about to embark on a ride both have dreamed of since they began in the sport.

At just 18, Titmus will go head-to-head with US icon Katie Ledecky at this year’s World Championships in Korea and then in Tokyo in 2020. She’s already demolished the Australian 400m freestyle record and stalked Ledecky at the Pan Pacs last year, getting closer than anyone in history as the pair swam one-two.

Not all coaches can get the best out of all of their swimmers. Olympic silver medal back-stroker Mitch Larkin is one that has sought the help of Boxall to reignite his career. But when it comes to Titmus, Boxall has always been able to channel the right wavelength as she tore down record after record on her rise up the world rankings.

“When I was first coaching her, I never thought she could be as good as she is now. But she had this character of being able to sustain work and be so consistent with her approach. She loves training. She loves all of it. A lot of swimmers just love racing. She loves all of it.

“She’s one of the only athletes I have that I push to another level, because she thrives on that. If I went easy with her, I don’t think she would be where she is today.

“We have a fantastic relationship because she fully trusts what I do and I trust that whatever I give her, she gives it 100 per cent. I know she is doing everything right.”

With success comes pressure. Ledecky comes to the table not only with brilliance and dedication but the entire weight of the US coaching and performance machine in her corner. Titmus has yet to set foot in an Olympic pool and Boxall has yet to train one of its champions.

“It’s daunting. Here is an athlete that fully trusts what you are doing. If I decide that I go on another path? She would do that, because she trusts me. What if I get it wrong? She executes the plans I create faithfully.

“But what an honour. What a privilege. As a little kid, she always dreamed of going to an Olympics. She has to be that little kid. What an honour that I’m not only going to an Olympics but I’m racing a true champion in a hyped-up race.

“I have to think the same. As an athlete, I always wanted to go to an Olympics. I never made it. Hopefully I can go now. You just have to honour that and enjoy the privilege.”

Phil Lutton | The Sydney Morning Herald

Feb 8 19

Jason Lezak continues to teach the future

by ZwemZa

Jason Lezak (USA Swimming)

A mention of Jason Lezak’s name and one, momentous image most likely comes to mind.

The architect of the game-changing final leg of the 400 freestyle relay at the 2008 Olympics – you know, the one when he swam down the favorite French team over the final 100 meters to win gold – Lezak has been the definition of teamwork and perseverance his entire career.

But a quick examination of his swimming resume reveals the four-time Olympian, multiple World-Champion and consummate relay performer accomplished much, much more than that win – regarded by some as one of the top moments in Olympic history.

Those accomplishments haven’t gone unnoticed abroad, either, as Lezak will be inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame this May in Fort Lauderdale.

Needless to say, just as he did when he was one of the top sprinters in the world, Lezak is the first to admit he didn’t do what he did alone.

It really does take a village – or in his case, a swimming community.

“(Before I learned I was being honored) I honestly wasn’t thinking about being inducted, although I knew you had to be retired 5 years to be considered,” said Lezak, who retired from swimming in 2013. “I knew that Mark (Schubert) nominated me, but it just never crossed my mind that I could be chosen.”

Lezak served as Master of Ceremonies at the 2014 induction ceremony when his good friend (and fellow Olympic gold medalist) Tom Malchow was inducted.

“He told me then that I should be ready in 5 years,” Lezak said. “It’s quite an honor.”

A Southern California swimming product, Lezak attended Irvine High School and continued to study at the University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB). In addition to the UCSB Swimming Gauchos, Lezak represented Rose Bowl Aquatics and was a member of Novaquatics.

He started his swimming career at age five, and by the time he was 10, he was participating in Junior Olympic competitions.

During his early teens, Lezak struggled with highs and lows in the sport of swimming. But once he quit playing basketball his sophomore year of high school, he saw big improvements – earning All-America honors his senior year in swimming and water polo.

The real payoff in swimming arrived during his junior year in college when he placed 5th and 6th at NCAAs in the 50 and 100 freestyle, respectively. After he finished his college eligibility in 1998, his star in swimming began to rise toward Olympic heights.

In the summer of 1998, he won the 100 freestyle at the U.S. National Championships. Two years later, at the 2000 Summer Olympic Games in Sydney, Lezak won his first Olympic gold medal as a member of the USA’s 400 medley relay.

He also won a silver medal in the 400 freestyle relay at those same games and soon thereafter became the No. 1-ranked sprinter in the world.

That was the first time since the 400 free was introduced at the 1964 Olympics that the U.S. men failed to win gold at the Olympics – and Lezak took it personally.

“The United States owned that event for more than 30 years, and to lose it was tough for all of us,” he said.

Four years later, the U.S. men fell to the bronze medal, so when the time came again in 2008 in Beijing, he pulled out all the stops to gain back the gold for the United States – and keep Michael Phelps’ 8-gold-medal quest alive.

The oldest male on the U.S. team and a tri-captain at those Games, Lezak stepped into history as the anchor of the 400 freestyle – coming back from a body length behind world-record-holder and eventual 100 freestyle gold medalist Alain Bernard of France over the final 50 meters to reclaim gold.

To this day (and most likely for the rest of his life), Lezak gets asked most about that race and not the 33 other international medals he won in his storied career.

And he’s always happy to talk about it because he is the consummate teammate.

“Everything happened perfectly for that race to end as it did, and it was a team effort; it was more than just me, even though I was the last leg,” said Lezak, who was part of three other Olympic relay gold medals but never won an individual Olympic gold.

“We had lost the race in the last two Olympics and for the previous six years, and winning gold for my country was my priority.”

Lezak said he doesn’t remember much from most of his races, but he does remember what happened before, during and after that historic world-record-setting race – voted as the “Best Moment” at the 2009 ESPYs.

“I remember talking to myself before the race, telling myself to stay strong and keep my stroke together and that I was going to have to have the best relay start of my life,” he said. “There was a good bit of strategy that went into that final leg of the relay, but I was definitely in the zone.

“If people don’t remember anything else about me or remember me for anything else but that race, I’m ok with it.”

While the relay swims are something Lezak will never forget, his favorite memory from Beijing – and perhaps in the entirety of his career – was the 100 free individual race. He touched in a tie with Brazilian sprinter Cesar Cielo behind Bernard and Eamon Sullivan of Australia

Lezak qualified for his fourth Olympics at the 2012 United States Olympic Trials as a member of the 400 freestyle relay team. In London, he helped the U.S. to a silver medal and became the first male swimmer in Olympic history to win four medals in the same event.

In 2009, Jason Lezak represented the United States at the Maccabiah games in Israel – bypassing the World Championships. The decision paid off as he left with four gold medals.

While he was there, he was inducted into the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame and was selected to light the flame at the opening ceremonies.

Lezak said he considered retiring after the 2008 Olympics as it became harder and harder to train and adapting the changes in his body in relation to top-level swimming. But he decided to come back for 2012 – and was surprised at how well he swam at Trials to make his fourth Olympics.

But after that, he said he knew his days were numbered, and he retired the following year.

Now that he’s been away from competitive swimming for several years – and his three kids are older – he said he’s able to share his experiences with them.

He said he also loves doing the clinics with the small kids he works with and enjoys traveling and speaking about his swimming experiences, perseverance – and of course, his career-defining relay swim.

“I really enjoy inspiring them and seeing their faces light up when they learn something new about swimming,” he said. “I never needed a medal or a record to do what I did; it’s not why I did the things that I did with swimming.

“I’m truly humbled by this honor, and I’m so thankful for all the people – coaches, family, friends, teammates – who helped me accomplish what I did. It’s not something you do by yourself, so I share this recognition with all of them.”

Mike Watkins | USA Swimming Contributor

Feb 8 19

#MidmarMile expected to generate R150 million for KZN

by ZwemZa

KwaZulu-Natal is a hot spot for athletes and swimmers as the province welcomes thousands of visitors from around the country to participate in the aQuelle Midmar Mile this weekend followed by the FNB Dusi Canoe Marathon next week.

Tourism KZN said that more than R150 million was expected to be generated for this year’s Midmar Mile alone, compared to R142 million last year. With Valentine’s Day between the two high profile sporting events, the hospitality and tourism industry is anticipating a bumper two weeks.

According to an economic impact assessment, the number of visitors to the Midmar Mile increased significantly in 2018.

Phindile Makwakwa, the tourism organisation’s acting chief executive, said: “Forty-five percent of the visitors stayed overnight, opting to stay nearby in Howick, Pietermaritzburg, or in the Midlands. This further creates a sustainable tourism sector for the region and the more job opportunities for the people in the area.

“This event is good for the region because the spend is in the area. In 2018 we found 55 percent came from KZN, followed by 33 percent from Gauteng. Gauteng remains the most important source of visitors after KZN.’’

Research has found that majority of the visitors spent two nights in the area. While some stayed with friends and family, more than 80% booked into bed & breakfasts and self-catering establishments.

“Events such as these help the province to remain the leading sporting destination in the country,” Makwakwa said.

She is hoping that the visitors take time out to visit some of the local beauty spots and tourism attractions, one of them being the popular Mandela Capture Site near Howick.

When quizzed by TKZN researchers in previous years, 95% of the visitors said that they would attend the event again.

“This confirms that a well-organised event improves the competitiveness of a destination,” Makwakwa said.

The province’s next big crowd-pulling sporting event is the Dusi Canoe Marathon from February 14-16.

The Independent on Saturday

Feb 8 19

Destined for Doha via Midmar Mile

by ZwemZa

Nick Sloman (Ausswim)

Eight of Australia’s most prominent open water swimmers will travel to Doha this weekend, as they prepare to compete at FINA’s 2019 Marathon Swim World Series.

The seven-part series begins on Saturday 16 February in the capital of Qatar, with events to follow throughout the year in Seychelles, Portugal, Hungary, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Macedonia and China.

Fresh from competing at the 2019 National Open Water Championships in Adelaide last month, the selected squad comprises of four male and four female athletes who will all compete in the 10km Open event at Doha Corniche.

With this race forming part of the qualification process for the FINA World Championships in Korea later this year – with the top ten in the men’s and women’s 10km event qualifying forTokyo Olympics in 2020 – there’s no doubt the stakes will be high.

After successfully defending his gold medal in the Men’s 10km event at Brighton beach, Noosa’s Nick Sloman will be hoping to gain valuable international race experience, as will his fellow place getters, silver medallist Kai Edwards (TSS Aquatic) and bronze medallist Bailey Armstrong (Kawana Waters).

Emerging squad member from Lawnton, Hayden Cotter, who took out the Boy’s 18-year-old 10km race as well as top honours in this year’s Pier to Pub, will also be looking to test his aggressive race style against quality opposition in Doha.

Hailing from Queensland, the Gubecka sisters – Chelsea (Yeronga Park) and Chloe (Kawana Waters) – will travel together to compete, with Chelsea aiming to qualify for her fourth World Championships and Chloe striving to make her first appearance.

Chloe Gubecka (left) and Kareena Lee (right) will be hoping to gain international race experience in Doha. (Ausswim)

Noosa’s Kareena Lee, who secured her first Women’s 10km Open Water National title in January and holds a silver medal from last year’s Pan Pacs in Japan, will be looking to capitalise on her momentum when she competes on the world stage, as will her new training partner Mackenzie Brazier, who completes the eight-athlete team.

Accompanying the swimmers will be four coaches, including Noosa’s John Rogers, Kawana Waters’ Michael Sage, Lawnton’s Harley Connolly and Yeronga Park’s Rob Van der Zant.

While most of the team heads for Doha on Saturday, Sloman and Lee have already travelled part of the way, arriving in Durban (South Africa) for the aQuelle’ Midmar Mile race. Once completed, they’ll make their way to Qatar and join the rest of the team.

Meanwhile, a number of the country’s emerging open water swimmers will take part in an Open Water Development camp at Lake Ainsworth next week. Click here to read more!


Feb 8 19

Natalie du Toit and Team Fortissimo take on the Midmar Mile to raise funds for the Teddy Bear Clinic

by ZwemZa

Back: Donor liaison officer Dalene Bishop from the Teddy Bear Clinic. Front: Swimmers Natalie du Toit, Elvira Wood, Bindi the bear, Deon van Niekerk and Arthur Blake train at the Parktown Boys’ High School swimming pool. Photo: Sarah Koning

Olympic swimmer Natalie du Toit and Olympic fencer Elvira Wood together with a team of five other swimmers are taking on theMidmar Mile to raise funds for the Teddy Bear Clinic.

The clinic is based in Parktown and assists abused children through conducting forensic medical exams, forensic assessments, counselling, psychological assistance, court preparation and, most recently, a diversion programme for youth sexual offenders.

Team Fortissimo, as they are known, said they are swimming a mile to lessen the hurt of these abused children.

What began as a small team raising R10 000 for the Teddy Bear Clinic five years ago is now aiming to raise R100 000 this year.

Team member Deon van Niekerk said,

“There is a dark world out there where children are abused and don’t have a voice or someone looking after them. Teddy Bear Clinic stands up for these children and gives them hope.”

The team not only hopes to raise funds but also awareness about the clinic.

Du Toit, who will be swimming as part of the team for the second year said, “This is about growing an organisation that deserves a lot in return for what they do. They have some amazing success stories. They are a big charity, but a small one in terms of funding.”

Swimmers Natalie du Toit, Elvira Wood with Bindi the bear, Deon van Niekerk, donor liaison officer for the Teddy Bear Clinic Dalene Bishop and swimmer Arthur Blake look forward to taking on the Midmar Mile in support of the Teddy Bear Clinic. In absentia are swimmers Steph Cilliers, Armas Fereira and Tania Jurgeleit. Photo: Sarah Koning

Teddy Bear Clinic needs R11.7 million each year to complete their work, 60 per cent of which is funded by the Department of Social Development. The foundation relies on donations to cover the remainder.

“The ANC says that children are the future. This is a great opportunity for South Africans to give back to the youth. I look forward to taking this amazing cause to the people,” said du Toit.

Du Toit said she looks forward to hosting a swimming clinic toward the end of this year to raise more funds and train swimmers for next year’s Midmar Mile.

The team will also swim with Bindi the bear, who represents all the children who have been treated badly. Regardless of how she is treated, Bindi overcomes and does courageous things.

While Team Fortissimo aims to swim as a group and Du Toit has promised to swim socially, Van Niekerk said it’s tough to keep up with an Olympic swimmer.

Teddy Bear Clinic wishes to thank Parktown Boys’ High School for the use of their pool and Europcar who donated a bus to transport the team to Midmar and generously donated R5 000 to the cause.

The swim is dedicated to Myles Sinclair who passed away suddenly in December.

If you would like to contribute to the cause, visit

Sarah Koning

Feb 8 19

Snapped: Mark Spitz on his remarkable seven-in-seven at Munich 1972

by ZwemZa

Tall, dark, goggle-less and, most crucially of all, moustached, Mark Spitz is one of the most instantly recognisable Olympic athletes of all time. At the Munich 1972 Games the swimmer won seven gold medals in a scarcely believable seven world-record times. According to the man himself, his legendary performances were not wholly unexpected, goggles are over-rated, and the moustache was key.

“I look kind of mean and aggressive looking,” Spitz said of the mesmerising photograph above. “Not mean in a personality way, but powerful.”

For the modern viewer, the lack of goggles, let alone a swimming cap, is one of the most immediately striking aspects of the image; that and the fact that it looks like the nine-time Olympic champion (he also won two golds at the Mexico City 1968 Games) swam with his eyes closed.

“My eyes were always open, I think it’s an illusion,” he protested with a laugh. As for no goggles, it equalled no problem. “We swam without goggles and we did just fine,” he said with an air of finality. “Since that time I have swum with goggles and I find that my head position is strange, a little different.”

The story of the magnificent moustache is a little more complicated. The 22-year-old Spitz, naturally outgoing, had let the hair on his top lip grow in early 1972 for no other reason than he could. Just a passing phase, he had intended to shave it off ahead of the Olympic trials in Chicago, but it all changed once he arrived at the pool.

Getty Images

“There were so many people talking about this moustache, because they had never really seen anything like that before on an elite swimmer,” he explained. “And I thought it was kind of hysterical so I kept it. And it didn’t seem to hinder me whatsoever and maybe, in one sense, the commotion around the fact I had the moustache was distracting enough to give me an edge over my competitors.”

It did not, however, stop there. Spitz, with the by now bushy moustache, arrived in Munich a week or so ahead of the Games, and a subsequent chance encounter with the Russian team served only to increase the feeling of invincibility growing around the young Californian.

Most of the swimming finals at the 1972 Games were scheduled for the early evening and, keen to test the ambient light in the pool at that time, Spitz approached the Russians on the eve of the Games to ask if he could get in the pool for 10 minutes during their allotted training session. The Russian coaches agreed and cleared lane one for the USA swimmer. It was then that it got interesting.


“As I was swimming back and forth, I noticed there were a bunch of underwater windows and flash strobes were going off as I went past,” Spitz recalled. “So I did some backstroke and saw half the coaching staff had disappeared – they were down in those underwater windows looking at me. So I did a really stupid-looking stroke when I got to the end of the pool – to throw them off guard, get them off the scent.

“When I got out they came up, unabashed with their cameras, and the coach who spoke English said, ‘My colleagues have never seen you swim in person; they want to know, do you always swim with that particular stroke?’ And I said, ‘Oh yes I do.’

I look kind of mean and aggressive looking. Not mean in a personality way, but powerful. Mark Spitz

“The second question was, ‘I notice you have a moustache; are you going to shave that off?’ I had been planning to go back and shave it off that evening, as the ultimate psyche-out for myself, and then, all of a sudden, I realised, ‘Gosh, this is the same thing as Chicago – they are all concerned about the moustache.’ So I said, ‘No, I am not going to shave it off.’

“And the next question was, ‘Isn’t it going to slow you down?’ And I don’t know what prompted me to say this, but I stroked my moustache and said, ‘This moustache deflects the water away from my mouth and allows me to get a lot lower and more streamline in the stroke and therefore [makes me] less likely to swallow water, and it allows me to swim faster and helped me break a couple of world records last month.’”

By 1973 the Russian men’s swimming team had, according to Spitz, all grown moustaches.

With the moustache firmly in place, Spitz’s schedule in Munich started with the 200m butterfly. It was a godsend for the record-chasing swimmer.


“It was the easiest for me because I could have a little bit of an off day and my confidence would still help me win,” he said. “Then I went in and broke a world record, which helped my confidence.”

This soon became a familiar pattern, as the 200m events helped Spitz “taper” and “fine-tune” for the sprints. As the golds started to pile up, the USA man knew his aura was growing, something he worked on.

“Everyone comes to the pool and thinks, ‘Did I train enough? Did I rest enough? Are my roommates making too much noise?’ All those worries,” he explained. “And certainly they were thinking, ‘Well, Mark Spitz must not be worried.’


“I would also go into the holding area before we went to swim and complain about my shoulder and my back, like I was a hypochondriac. I tried to get all my competitors psyched out that I was all of a sudden collapsing.”

After winning six out of six, a story began to circulate among the media that the big man was not going to risk his perfect record in the 100m freestyle. The journalists should have known better.

“I was always going for it,” Spitz laughed. “We let that story permeate a little bit. We spoke about it with a few other coaches and I guess the word permeated a little bit. But it was a bunch of nonsense, to be honest.”


Spitz went on to win the blue riband event by half a stroke in, of course, another world record. It was a performance that stood untouched for more than 35 years, until a certain Michael Phelps appeared on the scene.

But he did not have a moustache.

%d bloggers like this: