Team SA’s Ryan Coetzee celebrates his 24th birthday today (12 August) and he does so as part of the swimming squad competing at the African Games. Happy birthday from all of South Africa, Ryan!
Coetzee is rising rapidly up the world rankings and was part of Team SA team at last year’s Commonwealth Games where he won a bronze medal in the 50m butterfly. He will be looking to continue his recent strong form and win a gold medal in Casablanca.
Gary Lemke, Team SA’s media representative at the African Games in Morocco, caught up with him to ask a few questions.
Who are your role model(s) in the sport?
I have never had a role model in swimming but followed athletes like Usain Bolt because of his performances, but mainly for his combination of character that loves to entertain and be excellent. Never met him but saw him once at Commonwealth Games. Would have been awesome if I had a chance to meet him then.
Explain what it means to represent your country at an international event.
Getting to be a part of a team like this past World Champs with such great chemistry of support through the low performances and the medal performances are something kids dream about. It was a fantastic group of athletes that showed during Zane Waddell’s gold-medal victory ceremony how the team came together to sing the most passionate anthem I’d ever been a part of. We basically freaked out and were crying during the celebration. That is what it means to me and I want to thank each and every one of them for making it that special and their support. They always have mine!
How do you prepare for a tournament in the ready room, listen to (what) music?
I listen to EDM, house music or Rock. It gets me in a good flow and has both a mellow feel in some songs to calm my energy down and focus and EDM/Rock when I need to boost my energy and get a little hype.
What is your most memorable personal swimming moment?
Even though I was borderline crying during my Commonwealth Games medal I’d have to say it was 2019 at Nationals when I got my Olympic cut for the first time. It has been a lifetime thing and was definitely the most pure joy I felt during the most natural celebration; nothing fake, it just flowed, and then with some tears of joy and relief moments later.
What is your most memorable other sporting moment?
For those that I got to be present for, it would have to be Cameron van der Burgh winning at his last World Champs and retiring as well as the national anthem-singing moment for Zane Waddell’s World Champs gold medal.
In terms of your travels, what has been your favourite city and why?
Milan, such amazing food! Pizza out of this world, gelato, pasta (this one Rome would win), best Panini ever, the Duomos are the most insane designs I have ever experienced … and one of my best friends live near there.
What is the favourite app that you have on your phone?
TED is my favorite app, love watching some cool TED talks about anything I can learn to improve my life personally and professionally.
If you weren’t a swimmer what would you be?
Even though I’ve loved cricket/tennis/golf from a young age I might believe a Wakeboarder (laughs) … so much fun!
What are your sporting ambitions for the next two years?
Win an African Games gold medal in 2019. Make the 2020 Olympic final and put myself in the best position to have a shot at a medal. To medal at 2020 Short Course World Championships and have an impact on some teammates to make their first International team.
Which person has had the most influence on your career?
There’s definitely not just one single person. Everyone on this journey has had their part to play in making me the best athlete and person I can be. Each at a different stage in life but honourable mentions would have to be parents, swim coaches and my mental performance coach and some friends who each are chasing greatness in their endeavours. They are inspiring and understand the process.