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Troy, Jess do the job

By Mark Etheridge

The recent Olympic open water qualification race in Portugal saw two of our top exponents provisionally booking their places on Team South Africa for the 2012 Olympics in London ÔÇô but both lost their way to some degree before qualifying!

Troy Prinsloo and Jessica Roux were the pick of the four South Africans who headed to Europe, ending ahead of their colleagues Chad Ho and Natalie du Toit. The latter two had both competed at the Beijing Olympics, Ho ending ninth and Du Toit 16th.

In Setubal Prinsloo had a superb swim to end fifth overall in the 10-kilometre swim. Prinsloo, already an Olympian after swimming the 1500-metre in Beijing four years ago, is a relative newcomer to the tough world of open water swimming having only switched disciplines last year after graduating from the University of Georgia.

‘My goal going into the race was to win because I felt that I was more prepared than ever. The race was extremely tough because the field went out so fast. I thought the fifth lap was the last lap so I attacked on the fifth lap which wasn’t my plan so I feel like I could have finished in the top three. That was my second big open water swim so I don’t have much experience but was very pleased with the result.’

He raced the open water at World Championships in Shanghai last year but didn’t do well. “I ended 37th but I think a lot of it had to do with the water being so warm,” he told Road to London 2012.

Now spending time with coach Cedric Finch at the University of Western Cape in Cape Town, Prinsloo is originally from Durban and was at school at Kearsney College. “I’ve been doing a lot of training with Cedric since March and our goal was to focus just on open water and put in some big mileage.”

Looking ahead to London and Prinsloo has picked up confidence after Portugal. “My goal now is to go to the London Olympics and finish in the top five. I know it will be tough but I plan on being more prepared than Portugal. I also have a little more experience now and know what it takes to do well in the 10km races.┬á”

For Roux it was a case of rueing missed opportunities. Unlike Prinsloo she thought the race still had some time to run before unleashing her finishing effort. Still, that finish saw her just pip Du Toit for 31st spot and gain the Olympic continental qualifying spot.

“My biggest issue was the fact that I lost count of how many laps I had done. We had to do 6×1.66kilometre laps, and on what I thought was my fifth lap, I saw girls heading for the finish line ÔÇô I had 150m to start working. I had planned to go out hard and keep a steady pace throughout the race and then to make my move with one lap to go ÔÇô this obviously didn’t happen. So hopefully in London I’ll be able to work a lot harder towards the end of the race than what I did in Portugal,” she told Road to London 2012.

Roux, 19, is a sporting all-rounder having achieved provincial colors in hockey, swimming, water-polo and Nippers life-saving. In matric at Collegiate Girls High she was chosen to represent South Africa in swimming for the first time. She took part in the senior Africa Champonships where she won gold in the 5km open water event.

After school she joined national coach Graham Hill to improve her swimming and after just a month placed second to Du Toit in the open water senior nationals, a result that saw her heading off to Shanghai for worlds. “I had a terrible race in Shanghai and came back very discouraged and demotivated. I carried on training hard though because I still had KZN Champs and senior nationals to do.

“There was talk of me going to Portugal for the qualifying race, but when I didn’t hear anything more I decided to not push the issue and thought I was obviously just not meant to go. Senior Nationals in April this year, however, changed all of that, when I saw how well I fared against Natalie, improving by quite a bit. I thought I should give the qualifier a shot as I saw it as another opportunity for international experience.”

On her race in Setubal Roux says it was a tale of two days. “The first time Troy and I went down to the sea to do a practice lap ÔÇô two days before the race ÔÇô the water was 16 degrees, it was overcast and the swell was unbelievable with┬á very strong current. I honestly started doubting whether I would even finish the race if conditions stayed like that.

“But after lots of prayers race-day conditions were almost ideal with water temp up to 20deg, the water fairly flat and the sun was shining. Race were only scheduled for 4pm and the wait was quite nervewracking so I was grateful for the team I had that supported me and kept me calm.”

Now she’s looking forward to London, although she’ll in all probability be an even better bet for the 2016 Games in Rio. “I am really looking forward to London as I feel it is a wonderful opportunity and one where I can take in every bit of experience. I am glad that there is still just under two months to go till my race so that I can still put in a lot of good, solid training in order to prepare for my swim in London. If anything, this has motivated me to train even harder than I have been up to now.”


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