Swimming with Olympian Michelle Weber

Did you ever swim with an Olympian?

Swim with an Olympian

Swimming with Olympian Michelle Weber in January 2018

Dad and I drove down for the December holidays after a very tiring KZN Premier champs.  Our trip takes us from Durban on the East Coast, through the Free State to the Western Cape with a one-night stopover at Colesburg (half way).  Mom is working in Cape Town on contract and we will spend Christmas with Granny in a small place called Dwarskersbos, 12 km from Velddrif.

The first day is an eight-hour drive and we arrive safely in Colesburg.  The next day will be a nine-hour drive to Dwarskersbos.  It is very sad to see how dry it is everywhere.

December holiday

Never ending road with very dry conditions

The Western Cape is gripped in one of the worst droughts in 40 years.

We have an early start on the second day.  Our estimated arrival time is 16:00 pm.  I am so tired after the gala that I sleep most of the time.  We listen to nice music while driving.

Seeing how dry and deserted everything is making me a bit sad.  We finally reach Ceres where the mountain passes begin.  Ceres is a well-known fruit producing area in the Western Cape.

We push through to Piketberg where the farmers grow a lot of nuts, Porterville and finally, we turn left to Dwarskersbos where Granny and mom waits for us.  I am very fortunate to be able to travel across South Africa at the age of 10 and experience the different landscapes.

a Little bit about our holiday:

Port Owen Western Cape

Luxury houses at Port Owen Marina

Dwarskersbos is a small community 13 km from a place called Velddrif – mainly a fishing village.  There are mostly holiday homes, some salt factories, a harbor and small shops.  Cape Town is two and half hours drive away.  This is going to be a holiday with long walks, loads of sleep and just doing nothing.  Granny and I like to play cards and board games.

Before we know it, it is Christmas and New year’s 2018.  I must admit that no training drives me nuts.  I have so much energy after a week I do not know whether I am Arthur or Martha.  Jay boarding keeps me entertained an helps with the pent-up energy.

On the boat at Velddrif

Our trip on the boat

We do explore the area – take a drive to Langebaan for the day, visit a fossil site (but there was not much to see) and we stopped at Club Mykonos in Langebaan to see what is going on there.

Mom has to work again after New Year’s.  Dad, myself and Granny enjoy a day boat trip on the lagoon and Port Owen Marina.  There are big, fancy houses in that area.

Swimming with Olympian Michelle Weber:

By now you must be wondering how I end up swimming with Olympian Michelle Weber.

Our story starts in 2016 when Michelle was the only female swimmer from South Africa to qualify for the 2016 Olympics.  We ran into Michelle at TYR Westville Champs and Dad took a photo of us.

Swimming with Olympian Michelle Weber

2016 meeting Michelle Weber at Westville Sprints

Low and behold, in 2017 at TYR Westville Sprints we run again into Michelle.  I am so excited to visit mom in Cape Town, that I tell her we will be spending our holiday in the Western Cape.  Michelle did not hesitate and said that we should have a training session if I am in the Stellenbosch area.

Mom and Michelle arrange a date and time that fits in with Michelle’s schedule.  We have friends in the Stellenbosch area and decide to spend a weekend there, during which I will do a training session with Michelle.

On Friday 5 January we drop mom off at work and Dad and I set out to explore Cape Town.  I wanted to swim in the Sea Point saltwater pool, but the queue was too long.  It is school holidays.  With the drought, most swimming pools are closed.  The saltwater pool fills up daily during high-tide and everybody flocks there to cool down during the hot summer days.

Training session with Olympian Michelle Weber

Coetzenburg Swimming pool in Stellenbosch

We decided to rather take a drive through Hout Bay and then visit Iziko museum and the Castle.  We pick mom up after work and drive through to Stellenbosch.

The plan is to meet Michelle on 6 January 7 am at the Coetzenburg swimming pool – it is the pool complex at the University (Maties).

We are up early, packed and ready for the pool.  Stellenbosch is a beautiful University town.  The oak trees are very old and majestic and there are a lot of historical buildings.

Our training session at Maties:

Swimming with Olympian Michelle Weber

Kick set as part of our warm-up

The training facilities at Maties are magnificent.  We swim in the outside pool.  I am a bit scared to swim with Michelle as I am not sure how fast she will be swimming during training. Will I be able to keep up?  Michelle is very calm and her friendliness puts me at ease.  She asks me a lot of questions and I forget to be scared.

Our session consists of a warm-up, the main set and then cooldown.  It is the same as we do every day!

Michelle tells me that she swam her first open water event at the age of 12.  She also swam pool events before that.  Our main set consists of distance swimming and at one stage Michelle pushed me a bit to see if I will swim faster and keep up with her.

This is a great experience as I do realize the type of pace Olympians have to be training at. They really work hard.  Michelle is kind enough to adjust the training program for me to match the distance I normally do.  We talk about what we eat, how I train and what I do when I am not training.

Swimming with Olympian

Main set with Michelle

Even though I feel very unfit after two weeks of holiday and rest, I manage to keep up during the session. Michelle spent some time in Italy where she trained with a coach and also trains on her own since her return.  It makes me feel better about training on my own in Amanzimtoti as I know now that I am not the only one.

It is a very long road to reach the stage where you are able to try to qualify for the Olympics.  The times are so fast that I cannot think I would ever be able to swim as fast as that.  However, I am just 10-years old and the Olympians are all in their twenties, double my age.  There is still time to get there.

What swimming with Olympian Michelle Weber did for me:

This is the biggest gift I could ever get so early in the year.  Michelle loves swimming so much and really enjoys what she does.  My own love for the water and the fact that I want to be a swimmer one day really motivates me to work hard.

The day I do not love swimming, 
is the day I stop. ~Michelle Weber
Thank you Michelle

Thank you, Michelle, for your inspiration

Experiencing this is both motivational and unforgettable.  I will forever be grateful for Michelle who took the time to inspire me, made me feel comfortable and gave me a taste of how hard I will have to work to reach my dream, which is to be a swimmer.

I am honored to have shared a lane with Michelle.

Would you also like to be swimming with Olympian Michelle Weber?

Here is the good news!

Share-A-Lane Project:
Michelle started a project where she shares her experiences with swimmers (just like we did).  The one-on-one training sessions are on Saturday mornings. 9:30 AM at Maties University, Stellenbosch.  The sessions depend on whether Michelle is available as she travels a lot for swimming, so book a spot in advance.  You may find out more about this project and book a session at her website. 

Have fun and let us know how your swimming with Olympian Michelle Weber inspired you, by leaving a comment!