(This is Part 1 of a 2 part series which we will post during the South African Olympic Trials in Durban, South Africa from April 16th to April 22nd.)
On the eve of the South African Olympic Trials at the Kings Aquatic Centre in Durban, South Africa, all eyes (and diehard swimming result junkies like me) will be following the ups and downs of the SA results; who makes the team, who misses out, and who surprises! Those who have somewhat followed the swimming results in South Africa over the last decade will of course remember the “upset” 4×100 freestyle relay at the 2004 Games in Athens, Greece; or, how about the great breaststroke performances from Penny Heyns and Terence Parkin in the 2000 Games in Sydney (Bronze and Silver respectively). Finally, nobody in swimming has forgotten the great Jonty Skinner, whose career was made complicated by the unforgettable Apartheid.
Unbeknownst to many swimming fans of South Africa, there has been a coach quietly yet methodically tinkering away with swim technique and training theories for the past 15 years. His name is Peter Williams. Peter was a swimmer, not a good swimmer…an AMAZING swimmer. He was once the worlds’ fastest man! On April 10th, 1988, Peter broke the World Record in the 50m freestyle. His time of 22.18 is still considered fast when compared to all the crazy “suit enhanced” times of the last few years. Unfortunately, as was the case earlier on with Jonty Skinner, the political situation in South Africa prevented Peter from attending the Olympic Games in Seoul, South Korea in the summer of 1988. The only appearance Peter made at the 1988 Games was in the whisperings and conversations of some coaches and top swimmers that Peter’s time was, “the time to beat!”
Not long after, Peter had a short, yet successful career at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (when they still had a men’s swimming team). He received a scholarship, swam for the team and reached the NCAA finals. In 1992, with the fall of Apartheid, Peter was finally able to go for GOLD during the Barcelona Games in Spain–result…4th place, the “chocolate medal.” This unfortunate result, however, probably sparked the journey which Peter would undertake…the next 5 years Peter would dabble in the world of coaching, and fortunately, for a privileged group of athletes, especially 2 young men, Peter would find his calling with a small club in Johannesburg, South Africa named WATERBORN…
to be continued!
Chris Morgan is a swimming coach in search of the next pool, the next set, and the most creative workouts. Follow him on Twitter @swim4chris