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Breytenbach aims to build on breakthrough

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Winning two medals at the recent African Senior Swimming Championships in Algeria was the breakthrough that Ruan Breytenbach had set his sights on for some time.

He won a silver medal in both the 400m individual medley and 200m butterfly. Those in the know are not surprised as it has been predicted that Breytenbach has what it takes to become an excellent international swimmer.

For the 16-year-old Tuks swimmer, it proves he’s on track to try to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo.

But he is also a realist. ‘Having medalled at a senior championship is special, but a lot of hard work still awaits me before I can consider myself to be truly competitive in international swimming,’ Breytenbach said.

‘I need to improve my time in the individual medley by about 10 seconds and in the 200m butterfly by five seconds. The times in my other events are also not good enough yet,’ said the Grade 10 learner at the British Royal College.

Earlier this year during the South African Junior Championships, he won nine gold medals and three silver medals. Apart from the 200m butterfly and 400m individual medley, Breytenbach considers the 200m, 800m, and 1500m freestyle as well as the 200m breaststroke as events in which he is capable of excelling in the future.

One of Breytenbach’s outstanding qualities is his utter discipline. He wants to be the best, and he knows that means he has to put in many long, hard hours of training. But it’s a challenge he relishes.

No wonder he considers the legendary Michael Phelps (USA) to be a role model. It’s not just to do with the fact that Phelps won 28 medals at the Olympic Games or holds the record for winning the most gold medals at one Games.

In Beijing 2008, Phelps improved Mark Spitz’s record of winning seven gold medals to eight.

What the Tuks swimmer admires about Phelps is the way he keeps his composure even if things go wrong.

‘During one of his races at the Olympic Games, Phelps’ goggles filled up with water. From a personal perspective, I find that to be irritating, and it would slow me down, but Phelps remained focused on what he needed to do. Not only did he win but he also set a world record. That’s inspirational stuff.’

While still at primary school, Breytenbach used to be quite fast on the athletics track as well. He often outraced recognised champions over the middle distances.

Eventually, his decision on which sport to choose was made easy as he was selected to compete at a national swimming and athletics championship and the dates clashed. For Breytenbach, it was always going to be swimming – his real passion.

PHOTO: Breytenbach in action, supplied


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