28 June 2012
Swimming star Roland Schoeman will be attending his fourth Olympic Games at London 2012. That will equal the South African record held by fellow swimmer Ryk Neethling and marathon runner Hendrick Ramaala.
At the age of 31, Schoeman’s career is nearing its end, but that makes it a good time to reflect on what has been the best international swimming career ever for a South African man.
His career highlights include a gold medal at the Athens Olympics in the 4 by 100 metres freestyle relay, a silver medal in the 100m freestyle, and a bronze in the 50m freestyle.
The following year he won gold medals in the 50m freestyle and butterfly at the 2005 Fina World Aquatics Championships in Montreal. Two years later, he successfully defended his butterfly title at the 2007 Fina Aquatics Championships in Melbourne.
Turned down big money offer
Schoeman famously turned down a R40-million offer to swim for Qatar in December 2005, saying it was of “tremendous importance to me that I am part of the vibrant, challenging, frustrating, beautiful and above all hopeful country I call home”.
The following year, he became the first man to swim under 21 seconds in the 50m freestyle short course event. In 2009 he lowered the world record in that event to a stunning 20.30 seconds at the South African Short Course Championships in Pietermaritzburg. The record still stands.
Schoeman is also a former world record holder in the 50 metre butterfly and 4 by 100 freestyle relay, as well as the short course record holder in 100 metres freestyle and 100 metres individual medley.
He has won 11 medals at the Commonwealth Games.
The Order of Ikhamanga in Silver
In 2007, his achievements were recognised when he received the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver at a National Orders Ceremony in Pretoria.
The Presidency’s press release at the time read: “Roland Schoeman, who is fondly called ‘the rocket’, has displayed a rare determination to overcome obstacles and a talent to succeed in competitive swimming. His current achievements will ensure him a place in the annals of South Africa’s all-time sporting greats, serving as an inspiration for future generations of swimmers.
Schoeman remains one of the fastest swimmers on earth and is ranked 14th in the world for 2012 in the 50m freestyle, with a time 22.00 seconds.
Fina World Cup successes
He has also been extremely successful in the Fina World Cup, recording 44 victories during his career, including 16 in the 50m freestyle, 4 in the 100m freestyle, 13 in the 50m butterfly, eight in the 50m breaststroke, and three in the 100m individual medley.
He finished second in the overall standings in 2009, when Cameron van der Burgh took the title, and was third in 2010, just behind Darion Townsend, who finished runner-up.
Schoeman still holds the World Cup record in the 50m freestyle of 20.57, which he set in November 2009 in Berlin.
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