Maties swimmer, Heerden Herman recently qualified for the London 2012 Summer Olympics, Die Matie reported (here). Herman, who has been named Maties Sportsman of the Year for the third time, swam a qualifying time in the final of the 400m freestyle at the Olympic Trials in Durban, when he touched the wall in a time of 3:48.57. He also qualified for the 1500m freestyle, when he won the title in 15 minutes and 07.99 seconds.
Die Matie spoke to Herman and Pierre de Roubaix, Head Coach and Manager: Maties Swimming, about his preparations and his goals for the upcoming Olympics.
(HH: Heerden Herman - PdR: Pierre de Roubaix)
DM: What is your earliest memory of being in the water?
HH: The first time I can remember swimming was in 1997, when I was six years old. That’s when I learned to swim.
DM: When did you decide you wanted to be a swimmer?
HH: I joined the Maties swimming club in 2001, when I was 10 years old. I only really started focusing on swimming in 2005, when I was in grade 9.
DM: Was participating in the Olympics always a dream of yours?
HH: In the beginning, I wouldn’t say the Olympics was [a dream]. I didn’t really know what the Olympics were. I sort of realized what the Olympics is in 2004, during Athens, when the [South African] relay [team] won the gold. The first time I really thought about maybe going to the Olympics was only in 2007, during grade 11.
DM: What makes you want to succeed at swimming at the highest level. What drives you to want to be the best?
HH: I want to maximize the talent and opportunity [I’ve] been given and [I want to maximize] the inner drive to succeed I suppose.
DM: How many hours do you currently train per day and give us a brief outline of what your training entails?
HH: I do about 10 swimming session a week and 2 land training sessions a week in the gym. [It’s] roughly 30 hours of training from Monday to Saturday. It’s about six hours a day.
PdR: I’ve worked it out, he spends roughly 35 hours a week doing everything he needs to do actively around swimming. Things like going to the gym, the physiotherapist, massages etc.
DM: You obviously do a lot of travelling when you’re competing around the world. How do the different time zones and jet lag affect your training and what do you do to try and combat this?
HH: Usually there’s not much you can do for jetlag, but I try to counteract it with sleeping tablets and I try to get my routine back to normal as quick as I can. Travelling does affect your training, but you work around it. You’re obviously a bit tired when you arrive [at your destination], so you don’t immediately go into long heavy training. You build it up and get the fatigue out of your system.
DM: What are your swimming strengths?
HH: That’s difficult. I think about what I do. I don’t always go through the motions. I’m prepared to do the work that is necessary.
PdR: He’s talking about himself, so it’s always more difficult. Heerden is always thinking about his swimming, his technique and training. He’s always applying his mind to what he is doing and that is definitely a strength. Often swimmers sort of fall into a rut and [they] don’t think about what they’re doing. He doesn’t show it, but he’s very competitive and probably one of the hardest working swimmers.
DM: What are your swimming weaknesses?
HH: Cold water! Maybe sometimes over-analysing things, but that’s not just in swimming.
DM: When motivation seems to elude you, how do you push through?
HH: To an extent, that’s where inner drive comes in – it keeps you going. But also when you have goals, [they] help you get through those rough days; they pull you through.
DM: What is the biggest challenge you have faced in your career thus far?
HH: I’d say probably when I started swimming competitively, the biggest thing was funds. Now, the biggest challenge would be a sufficient 50m pool training.
DM: Swimming must take up a lot of your time? What do you when you’re not training?
HH: I’m still studying, so I have to do that. But, if I’m not sleeping at home or training, I’m usually listening to music or reading. I read a lot.
DM: What are you looking forward to most at the Olympics?
HH: We’re going to be travelling quite a lot, so I’m looking forward to that. I’m also looking forward to the “bigness” of it all, the excitement around it and being able to compete against the best in the world, and to see where you [rank] in the world.
DM: What is your ultimate goal for the Olympics?
HH: My first goal is just to improve my personal best times, especially in the 1500m. I know if I can do that, then I should get a good position.
DM: What are your post-Olympics plans and goals?
HH: I don’t know. The past 21 years of my life culminates in 8 weeks time, so, I haven’t really given a lot of thought about what I’m going to do afterwards. But, I’ll focus on my studies a bit.
DM: It has been reported that the team will have a two week training camp in Monaco, any comment on that?
HH: I don’t know the exact details. I pretty much know what you know and what I read in the newspaper. But I think it’s going to be pretty awesome. I’m pretty excited for that.
DM: What advice do you have for ordinary swimmers and aspiring champions?
HH: The advice I always give is the thing that’s helped me get where I am: put in the hard work. That’s the most important thing, I think.
DM: Pierre, how long have you been coaching Heerden and when did you see potential in him?
PdR: He started when he was 10.With youngsters, it’s always difficult to pinpoint those that are going to make it one day, [because] they are still developing. I think when Heerden also really realized he’s got a chance to be a world class swimmer, was when he was 14 and broke the senior provincial record in the 800m freestyle. That’s when we started to realize, we don’t know how things could progress, but this is the start of a possible progression to getting to the world class events, like the Common Wealth Games and the Olympics.
DM: In a sport like swimming, you have to put a lot of hours into training and end up competing for only minutes or seconds. How do you keep Heerden focused and dedicated to his training?
PdR: There’s a goal behind everything we do when we practise. So, what I always say to the swimmers is: Everything we do, we do for a reason. They know everything they’re doing is going to make them better. That’s the main drive. You must not waste one second of your training.
DM: What do you hope Heerden achieves at the Olympics?
PdR: In the end it’s Heerden’s goal. I’m there to support him in trying to reach his goals. What I really hope for is that our preparation goes well. He’s put in some really good training. I’d like to see him do his personal best.
The 2012 Olympic Games takes place in London from 27 July to 12 August.
By: Whitney Prins
Photo: Johan Wiid
By: Whitney Prins
Photo: Johan Wiid