Seven years ago, the country watched proudly as Roland Schoeman won a gold medal at the 2004 Olympics inAthens. He went on to break records, both locally and internationally, and became a household name. All knew who Roland Schoeman was, but what most people didn’t know is that he was a product of TuksAquatics.
While swimming makes up the largest part of water sports at Tuks, the university offers a wide variety of other water-based sports such as triathlon, life-saving, underwater hockey and water polo. TuksAquatics employs coaches of world-class standards who are accredited by the American Swim Coaches Association (ASCA).
One of the bigger clubs of TuksAquatics is water polo – a team water sport which consists of six field players and a goalkeeper. The winning team is the team that scores the most points in their opponent’s net. Water polo is not only a tactical sport but a very physically demanding one too. Game play includes swimming, passing the ball around to team mates and wrestling opponents. The athletes are required to follow a specified gym schedule and dietary guide in order to ensure optimum fitness, especially when preparing for competitions such as the University Sports South Africa tournaments. A similar discipline of TuksAquatics is underwater hockey – a non-contact sport in which two teams of six players compete to manoeuvre a puck across the bottom of a swimming pool into goals.
Canoeing is also one of the various water sports available at Tuks. Although not as popular as swimming or water polo, the sport has gained a lot of interest over the past several years. Perdeby spoke to two self-taught canoeists, Willie Bronkhorst and Derik van Eyk, both civil engineering students doing honours and final-year study respectively, who have been canoeing together for three years. “In the beginning it’s all falling and swimming back to the boat. But after a while it becomes natural, and you get a sense of balance while sitting in the boat,” said Bronkhorst as he explained the steep learning curve of the sport. “It’s a challenge. If I had got it right the first time, I wouldn’t have continued with the sport,” said Van Eyk.
TuksSwimming has been led by coach and manager Steven Ball since 2009 and has produced some of the finest swimmers in the country. One of the most notable of these is Emily Gray, a first-year BA Sports Science student who started swimming seven years ago as therapy after enduring an amputation of her left leg. She has been representing South Africasince 2005, when she was just 15 years old. “It’s a great honour to represent my country and a dream of mine, [but] it does come with a lot of responsibility,” she told Perdeby. This year she was nominated for the 2011 SA Disabled Sports Woman of the Year award which was eventually won by Natalie du Toit. “It was pretty amazing going toSun City, being around so many celebrities and so many great athletes,” said Gray.
Like all university-based sports, the disciplines of TuksAquatics offer a special challenge in terms of balancing competitive sports with being a student and maintaining a good academic record. Most Tuks athletes combine education with their love for sports by choosing a degree in sports science. “The sports science programme is more compatible with the training load of top athletes with regard to class and degree schedule structures,” explained Claire Rolt, a BHons Sports Science student and assistant trainer, specialising in swimming.
Both in the lecture halls and in the water, the members of TuksAquatics are continuing to impress and theUniversityofPretoriacontinues to produce both current and future athletes who represent the country and the university in competitive water sports.