Tuks and hpc going to the Olympics
By Manfred Seidler
Posted on 24 April 2008
The first batch of athletes who have been selected to go to the Olympics was announced on Wednesday 23 April at the SASCOC offices and TUKS as well as the High Performance Centre (hpc) will be well represented.
Amongst the athletes announced were the swimming squad and as expected all the big guns were included. But so were the new generation of swimmers. Lize-Mari Retief, William Diering and Suzaan van Biljon will be joining the likes of Lyndon Ferns, Cameron van den Burgh and Roland Schoeman in Beijing in August. Ferns, van den Burgh and Schoeman are both Tuks affiliated athletes.
The three youngsters have just returned from a very successful campaign at the World Short Course Championships in Manchester and are acutely aware of how big the challenge is that now lies ahead of them.
Since joining up with TUKS & the hpc, Diering’s performances have been on a rapid upward spiral. In 2005 he reached the Semi Finals in the 200m breaststroke at the World Student Games. Two years later, thanks to the hpc’s support structure and the professional coaching received at TUKS, he earned himself a silver medal at the All Africa Games. Diering was also successful at the Singapore and Sydney World Cup’s in 2007, finishing 1st in the 100m breaststroke and 2nd in the 150m in Singapore and 3rd in the 200m breaststroke in Sydney. His latest achievement is the Bronze Medal he won at the World Short Course Championships.
Lize-Mari‘s rise has been on a similar upward curve. The 21 year old joined the professional TUKS/ hpc alliance in 2006. Almost immediately the early morning and late afternoon work done under coach Igor Omeltchenko started to pay dividends as the then 19 year old won bronze at in the 50m butterfly at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. Lize-Mari finished 5th in Manchester in the 100m Butterly.
Probably the most prolific of the three TUKS athletes who have been included in the Swimming Team that will be winging its way to Beijing in August, is 20 year old Suzaan van Biljon. After thorough testing at the Pretoria University Institute for Sport, Suzaan was admitted into TuksSport school as a promising age group swimmer in 2004. By 2005 World championships in Montreal, Suzaan already made the finals as a 16 year old. The partnership between her and coach Igor Omeltchenko then already showed signs of being a potent mix. With Suzaan being a Commonwealth Games Bronze Medallist and the All Africa Champion in the 200m breaststroke, she struck gold – literally – when she won the World Short Course 200m breaststroke final in a new Championship record. Like Diering and Retief, Suzaan spends hours every day both morning and afternoon in the pool at TUKS under the watchful eye of coach Igor.
The Olympics will be the next big stepping stone on the way to stardom for these three incredibly talented athletes. The TUKS/hpc alliance can look back with pride at producing their first home grown Olympians. This was the alliance’s first attempt at developing athletes in an Olympic cycle to successfully qualify to represent their country at the ultimate sport event!