Kurt Herzog realised a lifelong dream when he was selected to make his Australian swimming team debut at the World Championships in August. As a late bloomer in the sport, Herzog’s years of perseverance to make it onto the national team helped him deal with a less than ideal preparation leading up to his big race. Enduring injury, illness and even a nasty training mishap in Russia, Herzog stepped up onto the blocks alongside his childhood idol Grant Hackett for the Australian team’s 4 X 200m freestyle relay. We caught up with Kurt on his return from Russia.
“I never would’ve thought after watching Hacky (Hackett) in the Sydney 2000 Olympics that I’d one day be representing Australia with him in the 4×200 relay. I was just 8-years-old watching him on TV. For me it felt like a dream come true,” Herzog says. “Having chased the dream for so long, I feel incredibly honoured and privileged to be a part of the Australian swim team who have such a rich history within the sport.”
Herzog’s 2015 bid for national selection started with a gold in the 200m freestyle at the Victorian Swimming Championships in January, where he beat Olympic medallist James Magnussen. The modest South Sydney native is quick to emphasise that he beat his mate in his non specialist event. Nevertheless, his top form continued with Herzog taking sixth place in the 200m freestyle at the Australian Swimming Championships, securing his spot on the Australian Dolphins Swim Team. What happened next taught the 23-year-old that dreams aren’t always easy to fulfil.
“The biggest lesson I learned at the World Championships is that not everything goes to plan in your final prep. Two weeks out from leaving I injured the AC joint in my left shoulder and was unable to swim for two weeks. When I arrived in Doha for our staging camp my shoulder got worse so I had to further cut down my training and just rest it. I ended up getting a cortisone injection in Doha the day before we left for World Champs.”
Arriving in Russia, Herzog’s preparation took another hit, literally.
“I then got sick with a chest infection and fever and was put in an isolation room for close to a week. My training got cut down again and to top it off when I went to roll through an easy one kilometre session in the main competition pool, I got hit in the head by someone swimming down the wrong side with paddles on! My left eyebrow split open and I had to get stitches. I couldn’t go near the water for three more days to avoid infection. When race day finally came I had to strategically place my goggles under the stitches!”
Herzog helped secure a finals berth for the Australian 4x200m freestyle relay team with a split time of 1.47.96. The team went on to win the bronze medal, earning Herzog his first Australian team medal. Despite his preparation, Herzog was ecstatic.
“I couldn’t wait to get out there and change over from the legend Grant Hackett’s lead off and just do what I loved doing as a kid – racing as fast as I can,” Herzog says.
Herzog’s achievement is even more impressive considering he didn’t experience huge successes in the sport growing up. Having started competitive pool swimming at the age of 11, it took five years before he first made national age times and even then, it didn’t lead to the success he dreamed of.
“I wasn’t any good when I was younger and didn’t make an age nationals until I was 16. That was in the 400 metres free and I came last! But swimming is something that I’ve always seen as fun. I’ve always loved the feeling of racing and trying to knock off your mates and letting them know about it after. I was lucky to have coaches and swim mates that always made swimming fun and I’ll always attribute my successes to that.”
As well as keeping on top of his training, Kurt takes time to study for a Bachelor of Sports Business. And then there’s his poolside strut for Funky Trunks, appearing in the brand’s marketing campaigns. Affectionately known as the company’s Ken Doll, Kurt is slowly getting used to the attention it brings. Judging from his recent shoot in the Dividing Lines range and his ability to overcome challenges, Kurt will continue to command attention both in the pool and on pool deck.
The new Funky Trunks range is now available at www.funkytrunks.com. For the girls check out Funkita at www.funkita.com
Swimming News is courtesy of Funky Trunks, a SwimSwam ad partner.