Judging by swimming goings-on in the last two months, it would seem Tuks has become the training ground for current and future women’s breaststroke champions.
At the Commonwealth Games, Tatjana Schoenmaker astonished just about all and sundry with her exploits winning both the 100m and 200m breaststroke events in African record times.
But it would seem she’s not the only talented breaststroke swimmer training at Tuks.
At the South African Senior Swimming Championships which wrapped up in Port Elizabeth on Saturday, 16-year-old Christin Mundell won silver medals in the 100m and 200m breaststroke and bronze in the 50m breaststroke. She also won the 200m individual medley.
More importantly is that she qualified in three events for the Youth Olympic Games scheduled for Buenos Aires, Argentina later this year.
At the South African Age Group Championships, Mundell won six gold medals (50m breaststroke, 100m breaststroke, 200m breaststroke, 200m freestyle, 400m freestyle and 200m individual medley) qualifying in all six events for the Youth Games.
Rocco Meiring is the common denominator in both success stories as he coaches both Schoenmaker and Mundell.
Former Youth Commonwealth Games 200m breaststroke champion Kelly Gunnell was also coached by Meiring.
‘I’ve got the utmost of respect for Rocco,’ says Gunnell. ‘He looks like this big intimidating man, but he’s all heart, and is so passionate about his swimmers. He does not coach for money or fame. Everything he does, he does for the love of swimming.
‘That is why I couldn’t help but get quite emotional when I saw Tatjana Schoenmaker win the two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games. She and Rocco so deserved the success. I can confidently say that it won’t be the last time that a Tuks female swimmer medals at a major international event.’
Mundell has been coached by Meiring since she was 11 and is full of praise for the role he plays in her swimming success.
‘Rocco is the most committed coach I know. He is always there and never late. So we can’t be either. And even if the sets are hard, he keeps us motivated. He cares about every swimmer in his squad on both a personal and swimming level.’
According to Mundell, having the privilege to train with the likes of Schoenmaker is a definite extra incentive to push that little bit harder during each session.
‘What Tatjana has done for women’s swimming in South Africa is invaluable. She’s an amazing role model. We are incredibly fortunate to have her in our squad and very proud of her. When we’re training, Tatjana is just another person in our squad, so I think what I’ve learned most from her is that you can be super successful and also stay humble about it.’
Meiring said that a decision was made at Tuks Swimming a few years ago to help lift the standard of South African women’s swimming.
‘We’re lucky to have Linda de Jager, who I consider to be one of the foremost women’s coaches in South Africa, also at Tuks.’
One of De Jager’s proteges is the 15-year-old Dune Coetzee who represented South Africa at the Commonwealth Games.
At national championships, she defended her title in the 200m butterfly. She also won a silver medal in the 100m butterfly and silver in the 400m freestyle and bronze in the 800m freestyle.
Coetzee qualified in all four events for the Youth Olympics.
Photo: Mundell in training action, by Reg Caldecott