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The only way is up as Doug does the job for Rio 2016
- Updated: April 26, 2016
By Mark Etheridge
He may have missed out on qualifying for an amazing fifth Olympic Games but swimmer Roland Schoeman’s legend will live on at the Rio Olympics later this year.
That’s because Boksburg’s Doug Erasmus looks to be Brazil bound after his 50-metre freestyle milestone at the national aquatic championships in Durban earlier this month.
His Olympic qualification swim came in the Friday morning heats where he clocked 22.26 seconds, just sneaking inside the 22.27 mark.
And the CBC Boksburg product was quick to give thanks to fellow sprinter and 2004 Olympic gold medallist Schoeman.
‘A true ambassador to swimming, Roland took me under his wing in 2011. He’s always been my role model and has done my gym programmes for the last five years. He gave me advice as to how to travel, handle any pressure during races and to always believe in myself,’ he told Road to Rio 2016.
‘He’s given me heaps of inspiration and motivation to keep giving my best, no matter what I do.’
Like fellow Rio qualifier Jarred Crous, Erasmus falls under the coaching wing of Igor Omeltchenko in Pretoria. ‘In my eyes, swimming with Igor is the best decision I ever made and I don’t believe I would have made it with any other coach. He’s taken me from a small town Level 3 swimmer to what I am today.’
And there’s more credit where that came from for the Georgian coach. ‘It takes a lot of hard work and commitment from a swimmer to reach a goal but it also takes a coach who believes in you and understand you, for both swimmer and coach to achieve.’
Coming from a family which saw his dad being an all-round sportsman but excelling in high jump and a grandmother who also swam well, Erasmus only started swimming aged 15 before one of his teachers suggested he started swimming for a club. That saw him joining Swift Swimming Club in Benoni under the guidance of Glen Keevy. The progression was fairly swift and he moved across to Tuks aquatics where he’s been ever since hooking up with Omeltechenko.
‘Tuks Aquatics has given me tremendous support. I simply wouldn’t be where I am today and over the last year they’ve given me every opportunity to help me reach my goal of qualifying for the Games.’
After making his international debut during the World Student Games in Kazan, Russia, ‘a big eye opener but also a time when I realised I have the potential to perform at international level.’
Onwards and upwards and then what he describes as his blessing in disguise at 2014 Pan Pacific champs in Australia. ‘I injured my shoulder which put me out of swimming for four months. I actually didn’t realise how badly I wanted success in the pool until I wasn’t able to swim.’
A hard period of rehabilitation and just two and a half months back in the pool and hey presto, I managed a personal best in the 50m free.This was the realisation that made me as dedicated and hard working as I am today.’
Last year and Erasmus realised that reaching Rio was more than just a dream. ‘Olympic Games was a dream, as for any athlete, all my life. But it was always something up in the clouds, which quickly became a reality, which was exciting, but at the same time, scary.
‘I qualified for my second World student games where I managed semi-finals for both the 50m free and 100m free. Then two months later I represented SA at the African Games in Brazzaville, Congo where I won gold in the 4×100 free relay and the 50m free individual event.
‘Two months after that, I swam the World Cup in Doha and Dubai. It was at these World Cups that I received my first international medal (bronze in 50m free) and managed to bring my time down to 22.34 and close to the Olympic qualifying time of 22.27.
‘Actually my whole plan was to try and win the 100m free event, and I’d take the 50m as a bonus. I posted the fastest 100m free time of the meet, but only managed a third in the final with a much slower time than I had swam the day before. This was a big upset for me, and I knew I had to get the 50.’
Come the morning of the 50m free and Erasmus (pictured above in Amsterdam Swim Cup action in Netherlands in December) was still somewhat exhausted after the previous night’s 100m.’
‘I was planning on doing enough to get me through to the semi. Brad Tandy, who was entered on a much slower time than he had swam before happened to be in the heat before me, where he did the QT. It was only after his swim that I decided to go for it, and I’m extremely glad I did. I posted the QT in the morning, but knew It was not over as I had to finish top two in the final, which in the end, I managed to do.’
Looking further ahead and he already has some idea of what he wants to do in Rio. ‘My goal is to make at least a semi in my 50m free which will take a personal best to get.’
And Erasmus who reckons he thrives of racing is grabbing the opportunity to race with both big hands.
‘The build-up to the Games now involves a lot of travelling and international meets. Each training camp will bring something new towards Rio and the goal would be to work as hard and smart as I can to ensure my performance in Rio is at its best.’
June’s Mare Nostrum series looms with meets in Monaco, Canet and Barcelona. Ultimate destination? Rio here we come!
Main picture of Erasmus in action courtesy of Anesh Dekiby/Dekiby Images/SSA