International swimming icon and inaugural gsport Hall of Fame inductee Penny Heyns has given some last minute tips to Team South Africa as the Olympic Games gets underway in London.
Heyns established herself as the world’s greatest female breaststroker of the 20th Century by becoming the only woman in Olympic history to win both the 100 and 200 meter breaststroke events in Atlanta 1996, bronze in Sydney 2000 and by breaking a total of 14 individual world records during her career.
Speaking to gsport, Heyns’ advice for South Africa’s Olympic athletes is to focus on their own race. “I would advise they treat these Games as just another competition when going into their main event/s.
“Most likely they have already competed against the same people on several occasions and the danger with the Olympics is that athletes get overwhelmed by the occasion and then produce less than their best performances.
“By now the work has either been done or not. If the preparation is done, they must focus on being the best they can be, in the moment, on the day. Swim, run, whatever the discipline is, they must focus on their own race. And, often the best performances come when one is most relaxed, so don’t forget to have fun!”
Reflecting on her own career, and her opportunity to represent South Africa at the Olympics, Heyns said: “As I look back I feel very blessed to have represented South Africa at three different Games and at times the achievements sometimes still seem surreal.
“I definitely have more respect now for the achievements as I grow older, and realize how few people ever get to enjoy Gold Medal moments such as I’ve had. I think while one is young and competing, you take things a little for granted and don’t savour the moments enough.”
“I had a lot of mixed feelings when I stood on the podium after the 100m victory in Atlanta. During the prelims I had set a new world record, breaking my own set in March ’96.
“Having done a personal best I went into the finals hoping to improve even more on the record and knew if I did that, then I would most likely win the Gold,” remembers Heyns.
“During the actual race I think I tried a little too hard and when one does that, you risk shortening your strokes, which is what I did and thus glided into the touch. In that moment I was unsure if I had touched first.
“As it turned out my winning time was slightly slower than the morning and thus I felt disappointed with the time, however elated at the win. In hindsight I don’t think I enjoyed the podium moment as much as I should have,” said Heyns.
“I also offer swim clinics over most weekends where I share my experience as we focus on stroke technique in the pool and in the ‘classroom’ – video reviews, mental preparation teachings, motivational sessions, dry-land training and lastly, individual photographs where the swimmers get to wear my Olympic medals while posing with me.” Visit her website for more information.
Heyns will be sharing her experiences and thoughts about the London Games as a guest on pay channel SuperSport. “I am enjoying the opportunity to participate as a guest on several of the SuperSport Olympic build-up shows both pre- and during the first weekend of the Games, before leaving for London on the 6th.”
She will be joining Telkom Business as a guest Host to its VIP guests and customers, where she will get to enjoy several track & field events with them while also sharing her personal thoughts surrounding the Games, and what the athletes may be experiencing.