17 July 2012
Despite facing a very tough challenge from an elite field in the Fina Olympic marathon swim qualifier in Setubal, Portugal in June, Troyden Prinsloo came through with flying colours to book his second visit to the Olympic Games.
Previously, he represented South Africa in the 1 500 metres freestyle at the Beijing Olympics. Back then, he competed in the pool. Now his stage is in open water.
Ten places for London 2012 had already been secured by the top 10 finishers at the 2011 Fina World Championships. Now, up against a strong field in Portugal, Prinsloo and fellow Olympic hopeful Chad Ho faced very stringent qualifying criteria. They could book a spot with a top nine finish, plus one swimmer for each continent would also be added.
Never mind the competition in Setubal, Prinsloo faced a very tough challenge for a place from Ho, a man with an established and excellent record in open water swimming.
In February, Ho won the Midmar Mile, the world’s largest open water swimming event, for a third successive time, with Prinsloo in second place.
Previously, Ho had represented South Africa at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and finished ninth. The following year he won a bronze medal at the 2009 Fina World Championships in Rome in the five-kilometre open water swim. He was also the overall series winner of the 2010 Fina 10k Maraton Swimming World Cup Series.
Prinsloo had also tasted success in the Midmar Mile, winning in 2005 and 2006, before adverse weather conditions ruled out another defence of his title in 2007.
His achievements also include claiming a bronze medal at the 2006 Commonwealth Games in Manchester in the 1 500 metres freestyle. He also won a silver medal in the 800m freestyle at the Pan Pacific Games in Victoria, Canada and, in 2008, he represented South Africa at the Beijing Olympics in the 1 500 metres.
‘I wanted to do something different’
“I was always interested in open water and when I achieved what I wanted in the swimming pool, like going to the Olympics and the Commonwealth Games, I wanted to do something different,” he said in an interview with Marjolein van der Stad for the SuperSport website.”
“I was back with my coach in South Africa and we decided to do the open water,” he continued. “It is something that I will do for a few years as most of the swimmers I compete against are about three to four years older than me,” said the 26-year-old.
Earlier this year, at the South African Open Water Swimming Championships, held at Albert Falls Dam in KwaZulu-Natal, he edged out Chad Ho for the national title after a tremendous tussle between the pair, claiming victory by a scant 0.3 seconds.
In Portugal, he faced Ho again and a very strong field of Olympic hopefuls from around the world.
After the first lap, Prinsloo was in 15th place as the race began at a relatively sedate pace. However, as it progressed the speed picked up, resulting in the final two laps of the six-lap course being the fastest of the lot. By the end of lap four, Prinsloo had pulled himself into the leading pack.
Tunisian star Oussama Mellouli, who won gold in the 1 500 metres in Beijing, then pulled clear of the pack, with only Bulgaria’s Petar Stoychev, a member of the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame, able to stay with him.
Prinsloo didn’t panic, though, and put in a strong finishing lap to claim fifth place behind Mellouli, Canada’s Richard Weinberger, Stoychev, and Valerio Cleri of Italy.
His time of one hour, 45 minutes and 40 seconds was 22 seconds behind Mellouli’s winning time and 49 seconds clear of Ho.
In an elite field of just 25 swimmers, Prinsloo says his aim is to finish in the top 10 at the London Games.
“I only just started in open water and it is a whole new ball game for me.
“I am going to do my best at this Olympics, but my aim is to medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics.”
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