Pengelly's star quality | SASCOC - SASCOC

Pengelly’s star quality

Jessica Pengelly has another dream. And when she dreams, she dreams big, and her dreams tend to come true. Now into her Grade 12 year at school, the 17-year-old from Somerset West is already thinking ahead. Not too far ahead, mind you, though she has her heart set on the Fina World Championships, scheduled for Rome in July.
First though there are the small matters of squeezing in her final year of schooling with an arduous training schedule and also the South African Nationals in Durban in April, where she will again bump into her rival and friend, Kathryn Meaklim. Together, these two look like pushing one another faster and faster, until they gatecrash into the top tier of 400m individual medley swimming.
Pengelly is defending champion in the 200 and 400m individual medley from last year’s Nationals, but it is Meaklim (herself just 19) who is helping to ignite the rivalry. In that 400m IM Pengelly was forced to dig deep to hold off the faster-finishing KwaZulu-Natalian and both went inside the existing national record, as the Cape swimmer won by just 0.04sec.
That helped both qualify for their first Olympics ÔÇô and it has to be said that the pair will already have been identified now by governing body SASCOC as potential medal prospects in London 2012. That may sound like an ambitious statement, and it is, but their performance graphs suggest they have what it takes, given normal development.
Meaklim contested both the 400m IM and the 200m butterfly in Beijing; she produced a┬á 4min 37.11sec in her 400m IM heat and was unable to get to the semi-finals, but in the butterfly she won her heat (2:09.41) but failed to make the final. The experience however will stand her in good stead … one should not lose sight of the fact that in her first Olympics, as a scholar in 1992, Penny Heyns ended 34th and 33rd in the 100 and 200m breaststroke. Four years later she collected double gold.
Pengelly’s form pleased her in Beijing (her 400m IM time of 4:41.04 was a South African record, but showing how high the bar is, she was unable to make the semi-finals). However, an Olympics has so many dynamics and distractions, though Pengelly maintained her focus. It really can be an intimidating atmosphere and more often than not just the galaxy of international stars from across 28 codes all walking around in the same village has a profound effect on a young athlete.
‘Nothing compares with going to the Olympics,’ Pengelly reflected. ‘The (Olympic) village was so big and everyone was always so busy that you hardly had any time to focus on anything other than the events. In terms of new friendships, well I am on good terms with everyone in Team South Africa. We’re a close group.
‘But I learnt so much in Beijing. I was happy with my performances (and I produced that PB in the 400m IM), but apart from the swims it was an incredible life-changing experience. Watching Michaael Phelps swim was amazing and seeing the swimmers smash world record was unbelievable. It made me realise just how far I have to go to get where I want to be.’
And where she wants to be is on the podium in London, with hopefully a few other trips in between at other international meets.

Check out the official SASCOC magazine currently on sale at all leading retailers for R29.95 for this story and more.


  1. Peter

    April 9, 2009 at 11:08 am

    nice one. she is going to go far. the reference to Penny Heyns can’t be ignored. look what she did in her first Olympics. went to the USA, developed and became an Olympic champion. let’s hope Sascoc have the patience and the money to invest in talents like Pengelly – and keeping them in SA and not the US would be the way to go

  2. Don Pengelly

    April 10, 2009 at 4:30 pm

    Hello Gary , Jess’s dad /Don here . Yep we are ALL very proud of her And will push her for that extra mile .. she’s a winner in our eyes AND time will tell .
    I personally feel that SHE has the potential of being an Olympic medalist in London 2012..certainly the commitment anyway .. MAY not even necessarily be the 400m IM BUT another discipline !!
    THANKS from US all for a fab review .. will be anxiously watching her progress !!
    Best rgds Don P.

  3. Gideon Sam

    April 10, 2009 at 6:07 pm

    You go girl! With a big heart like yours, a podium position in London is certain. With Dad Don by your side, what can stop you? You make me feel like dancing; 11 to go…you know what I mean?

  4. Karen21

    April 11, 2009 at 2:17 pm

    nice positive story, but no pressure girl! do what you have been doing, and let the results look after themselves. lovely to see J’s dad and Gideon also “chatting” to one another. keep it up!

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