Taking a step backwards before moving forward again can sometimes be beneficial. This is why the Olympian swimmer, Karin Prinsloo, is not too worried about not representing South Africa at the World Swimming Championships in Russia. Prinsloo says: ‘It would have been nice to compete at the World Championships, but because of a back injury and having my tonsils removed as well I missed out on many hours of quality training. I considered competing at the Mare Nostrum Series in Monaco in an effort to qualify for Worlds, but then decided against it, If I had qualified, my training program would have been disrupted. I would have had to do a build-up for Monaco and then I would have had to taper down before the World Championships. Now I can focus only on getting racing fit for the next season. I have started to do some gym training this week to strengthen my body. It is the first time in 18 months that I am back in the gym. I would not have been able to do so if I were going to compete at the World Championships.’
Prinsloo plans to compete at the South African Short Course Championships in July. If she is selected, she will represent South Africa at the African Games in September. More importantly, she hopes to compete at one or two of the World Cup galas between September and November.
The HPC/Speedo swimmer says: ‘What is good about this year’s World Cup galas is that it will be contested in Olympic-size swimming pools and not, as before, in 25 metre pools. This means that we will be able to qualify for 2016 Olympic Games in Rio. I would like to get my international qualification out of the way by the end of this year. Then I only have to do so again at next year’s South African Championships to secure my place in the South African team.’ Prinsloo is confident that, if everything goes according to plan, she will be able to represent South Africa in the 200m backstroke as well as the 200m and 400m freestyle events at the 2016 Games. The Paralympic swimmer, Emily Gray (HPC/Speedo), who won seven gold medals at the Nedbank Championships for the Physically Disabled in Johannesburg, qualified at the South African Senior Championships for the World Championships in Glasgow in July.
She will take part in the 400-freestyle and 100-backstroke events. Gray, who lost her left leg to cancer when she was just 11 says: ‘It is important to ensure that I am really on track to medal at Glasgow.’ She never allowed her loss to get her down and held her head high at multiple global events. She was nominated as a Nedbank brand ambassador, as well as for the SA Sports Woman (with a disability) of the year.
She has also represented South Africa at the 2008 and 2012 Paralympic Games. Gray’s main frustration is that, after the Glasgow World Championships, there will be no real opportunities for her to compete internationally to prepare for next year’s Paralympic Games. Gray says: ‘I will basically not be able to compete internationally for over a year. There are just no international galas for Paralympic swimmers. My only competition will be at local events. This is far from ideal because these events are not nearly on the same level as international competitions.’
Gray is confident that she will be able to medal in the 400-freestyle at next year’s Paralympic Games. She says: ‘I cannot promise that I will do so, but at the moment I am one of the top five swimmers in the world in the 400-freestyle. As far as the 100-backstroke is concerned I think I am one of the top eight in the world.’ Asked what motivates her, Gray said: ‘I am trying to find out what I am really capable of and what my limits are. In other words, I want to be the best athlete I can possibly be. If that means making many personal sacrifices, so be it.’
Photo credit: Reg Caldecott