Minke Janse van Rensburg: “The Harder We Work, the More We Will Achieve”

South Africa’s teenage para swimming sensation Minke Janse van Rensburg continues to defy the odds, smashing countless records in her journey to date.

Earlier this year, Janse van Rensburg was honoured with the Sportswoman of the Year with Disability at the annual SA Sport Awards ceremony, for her outstanding performances in the pool.

Over the years, Janse van Rensburg has climbed the ladder from being awarded National Colours at the age of 13 and being the youngest swimmer at the 9th Down Syndrome Swimming World Championship, to breaking her own world record in the 100m freestyle at the 2023 SA National Aquatic Championships in April.

Now at 18, she is stamping her authority in the swimming world and is aiming to dominate the world stage like Lara van Niekerk and Tatjana Schoenmaker, who she admires.

Speaking with Tlamelo Kganakga, Janse van Rensburg chats more about her journey and shares her advice for success.

 

Hi Minke, thank you for chatting to us! Please tell us about yourself and where you are from.

I am staying with mom and dad in George. I am 18-years-old and a learner at UP with Downs School for learners with special needs. My club is Garden Route Swim School and my coach is Franna Vorster. I exercise with the senior squad and the only swimmer with a disability in the squad. I do everything they are doing and always give my very best.

 

When and where did your love for sport begin and why swimming?

I love swimming.  My parents don’t like swimming but I do. Swimming is fun. It is fun to practice with others and it is fun to race. It is also fun to get a medal.

 

Having being in sport of a number of years, what are some of the lessons you have learned along in your journey?

When it comes to my training, my dad knows best when I have exercised enough. He takes me on holiday the week before SA Nationals so that I can focus on what I have to do: 1. Dive strong and not too deep. 2. Streamline and butterfly hard. 3. Breath on 2nd stroke after I surface, not 1st stroke otherwise my body turns sideways. 4. Don’t look up or back when breathing. 5. Tumble, streamline, butterfly kicks all in one movement. 6. Breath second stroke after surface and after I have tumble turned. Don’t breathe last 20m. Just go for it and finish strong. Kick all the time.

I have learned not to eat too much. I am not so fast when I am chubby.

 

What are your hopes for women’s swimming, especially for disabled swimmers in South Africa?

I hope I can swim overseas.  Every time my dad says I am invited to the World Championship or the European Championship, I can’t go because of issues of affiliation fees not being paid. My dad says someone needs to urgently look into this matter and we hope the new Minister (Zizi Kodwa) will maybe sort the problem out.

 

Where do you want to see women’s sport going forward?

We are going the right direction (at the moment). We should just keep going. Use it or lose it! The harder we work, the more we will achieve. You should see Tatjana (Schoenmaker) warming up, she focuses and that is what we should do when we do sport. A sportsperson must work hard to be very good because sport is not a game. It is a match or a competition and we must think like that. We prepare for a competition to race, not to play.

 

What are some of the tips that keeps you focused?

Breath in deep and out, deep. Don’t stress because it is not good for your nerves. Don’t play games on your phone because your brain must rest. Listen music and eat right before a competition because it helps to focus. Lastly, get enough sleep.

 

What are some of your career highlights to date?

I was awarded National colours at age 13 and was the youngest swimmer at the 9th Down Syndrome Swimming World Championship. I won a heat gold, two silver and two bronze medals there – it was in Canada in 2018.

I received an award for an extraordinary achievement because I am one of only three down syndrome women that managed to break an open world record while I was a junior swimmer. Different to the other two whom each broke one, I broke three such records while still being a junior swimmer. I now hold 4 down syndrome world swimming records. I received the Bokkie Award for junior sport star of the year in 2019. I was also upcoming sport star of the year finalist with Tatjana Schoenmaker and Luxolo Adams. Tatjana won it. Last month I received the SA Sport Woman of the year with a disability award. I broke my own records again and again because I exercise hard.

 

Who are some of the sportswomen you admire and why?

I like Tatjana Schoenmaker, Becky Meder and Lara van Niekerk. They are very friendly. And, I also like Alani (Ferreira). She is also very friendly.

 

Since you started swimming, who are some of the swimmers who have caught your eye and you are impressed by them?

Natalie Landman. She swims backstroke very good and she is my best swimming friend at galas.

 

What’s your advice for success?

Get a good coach and work hard. Eat right and sleep early before a gala.

 

What’s your greatest career ambition?

I want to get a gold medal under the SA flag and with our national anthem playing like when Lara and Tatjana swam at the Commonwealth Games.

 

What’s your advice to women who aspire to take up sport?

Just do it. It feels very good when you worked super hard.

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