MALANSHOF – Two swimmers bring home gold in SA Nationals Open Division.

Swimming coach Peter Williams knows a lot about the sport. More specifically, the former Olympian, who broke the 50m world record with a time of 00:22:18 in 1988, knows how to nurture talent. Speaking at the Randburg Virgin Active in Malanshof, where the club Waterborn Swimming trains, he spoke candidly about two of his swimmers. Ricky Ellis and Mariella Venter competed in the SA National Aquatic Championships in April. Both swam backstroke. Both brought home gold.

In his 20 years of coaching, Williams cannot recall a swimmer entering their first national championship and winning. “Yet that’s what Mariella Venter did – twice. She won both the 50m and 100m backstroke.” The Linden Hoërskool pupil, started competing when she was about nine but it was only around September last year that she decided to focus on swimming exclusively.

By Mariella’s own admission, once she started swimming five times per week and making her personal best times, she found she was getting fitter and the sets became easier and she started to enjoy swimming as a sport. Williams is usually quite conservative in pushing a swimmer’s career, but with Mariella’s talent he feels she should work toward the Olympic trials in 2016. When asked what keeps her going, she said, “When you feel like giving up, just think about the next stroke and the next length and the next set – and you’ll be done.”

Conversely, Ellis is living proof that persistence pays off. When Williams first started coaching in April 1997, Ellis was one of the first pupils to sign up. He was about nine at the time. He’s now 27. He has had to work incredibly hard at the sport and has watched three swimmers from his peer group become Olympians between 2004 and 2008. He’s also watched many of his friends go over to the USA on swimming scholarships. Though he had the same opportunity, he decided to stay in South Africa. While he trained, he completed his studies – graduating with honours in finance in May.

Ellis is pursuing the 2016 Olympics dream. He’s proud of the effort that he has put in. His advice applies to any sportsman, “Stick with it. You never really know when you are going to achieve. It could be after a three-month break, or it could be after three years of training.”

In Waterborn Swimming’s 20 years, this is the first time the club has national champion backstroke title holders.

Ricky Ellis and Mariella Venter are focused on the 2016 Olympics.
Ricky Ellis and Mariella Venter are focused on the 2016 Olympics.