Goal-getter par excellence would be a good way to describe Nathania van Niekerk, last year’s TuksSport High School’s head girl.
At the beginning of 2017, she had set herself two goals. To excel in her matric exams and to qualify in the 200m-backstroke for the Commonwealth Games in Australia. She achieved both.
Van Niekerk achieved five distinctions, and in December in Durban, she won the 200-metre backstroke in 2min 14.75sec which was what she needed to do to be in contention for selection for the Games. She missed out by a mere 0.06 seconds to qualify for the 100m-backstroke as well.
Emotionally and physically drained was how Van Niekerk felt after her swim in the 200m backstroke and with just reason. For the duration of her exams, she never toned down her training.
On the days she wrote exams, she would get up in the early hours of the morning to study for two extra hours. After finishing writing, she would train for up to four hours mostly on her own. Then she would put in another four hours of studying.
It’s a matric tradition to go for a big ‘jol’ after the exams. That was not destined for Van Niekerk. The moment she had put her pen down for the final time in the exam venue the real training in the pool started.
‘I had no choice. I took a break from swimming backstroke, so it was essential to get my body reacquainted as to what it takes to swim it. Time was of the essence as I had to be as close as possible to my best at the trials.’
In between chasing fast times in the pool and being in a never-ending quest to improve her knowledge Van Niekerk had to fulfil her obligations as a head girl.
It was something she cherished. ‘I think I got indeed to understand what “juggling” is about last year getting to learn to make every second count every day.’
It is not a foregone conclusion that Van Niekerk will be selected, but hopefully, the selectors will take into account that in 2016 she missed out by 0.60s to qualify for the Olympic Games in Rio in the 200m backstroke, proving that she is a consistent performer.
According to Van Niekerk, she currently ranks as the 13th best 200m-backstroke swimmer in the Commonwealth countries. However, she is confident that from now to April she will be able to improve on the time she swam in Durban.
‘If I can get close to my best time of 2:11.33 there is a real chance for me to qualify for the final at the Commonwealth Games.’
Van Niekerk is planning to study psychology at Tuks next year.
The one thing not a lot of people might know about Van Niekerk is that she’s a real motorcar fundi.
Ask her pretty much anything about the latest technology in the motor industry or any specifications about luxury cars she will be able to give the right answers.
Her older brother and nephews got her interested. It was a classic case if you cannot beat them join them.
So she also got involved in keeping abreast of what is happening in the world of cars. She still does through Instagram and Facebook.
If money were not an option, she would love to buy herself a Mercedes AMG S63 sedan or a Jaguar XF-R Sport.
Picture of Van Niekerk courtesy of Reg Caldecott