Three-time Commonwealth Youth Games medallist, Rebecca Meder, has a burning desire to represent South Africa at the Olympic Games and believes that her chance will come when the time is right.
Before lockdown struck due to the spread of Covid-19, Meder raced at the Durban Grand Prix where she swam 0.2 seconds off the Olympic A qualifying time.
For the past 8 and a half years, she has been preparing to make her dream a reality by changing to home schooling and finishing her last four years in a space of 2 and a half years to free-up 2020 in order to compete in Tokyo.
Still, Meder has remained upbeat, and is hopeful that her dream delayed is not a dream denied and continues to believe that everything will fall into place in due time.
Meder frequently competes on the international scene and highlights participating at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Bahamas, Senior World’s Short Course in China and Senior World Long Course in South Korea as her outstanding moments so far.
Apart from swimming, Meder loves spending time with family and friends, camping, going crayfishing, hiking and going out for a cup of coffee.
She is also into music, playing the violin, enjoys painting and recently, because of lockdown, has started gardening.
Speaking with Celine Abrahams, Meder reflects on getting into swimming at the age of 8 and speaks fondly of the close relationship that she shares with fellow women swimmers.
Rebecca, how’s life been for you over the past few months under Covid-19 lockdown?
Life during lockdown has been rather interesting. I started off my lockdown staying at Erin Gallagher’s (another SA swimmer) house. For the first two weeks of lockdown, life was very quiet and chilled as we went into a period where we usually have our annual two-week break. Once the two weeks came to an end, it was time to become innovative and creative with regards to training and maintaining fitness. I also found that I had a lot more time on my hands and had to find different things to keep me busy throughout the day.
How have been able to train and handle your schoolwork?
During this lockdown, I have surprised myself by how much one can actually do at home to stay strong, healthy and fit. At the beginning of lockdown, before it became too cold to swim at home, I swam with a stretch cord. I knew this wouldn’t benefit me fitness wise, but I would be able to maintain the feel of the water. I have been doing a lot of running and my biokineticists, iPerformglobal, have provided me with exercises that would help me maintain my strength.
“I managed to push 4 years of schooling into 2 and a half years, freeing me up for 2020. I was only supposed to matriculate in 2020 but didn’t want the stress of school had I made the Olympic team.” – Three-time Commonwealth Youth medallist, Rebecca Meder.
I haven’t had to deal with the stress of schoolwork. With 2020 Olympics insight, I went home schooling in 2017 and followed the Cambridge curriculum. I managed to push 4 years of schooling into 2 and a half years, freeing me up for 2020. I was only supposed to matriculate in 2020 but didn’t want the stress of school had I made the Olympic team.
What has been keeping you motivated during this time?
My Olympic dream still burns inside of me. I know what my goals and dreams are, and I know what is required of me to get there. I have had days where my motivation has required a lot more energy, but I suppose we all get those days even when we are so busy in our normal routines.
Having so much time on my hands, I have been spending even more time in prayer and reading my Bible. This motivates me too. I know that God has a plan for my life, so every time I struggle to stay motivated, I turn to Him and remind myself of the promises He has given me.
We recently did an interview with Duné Coetzee and she spoke fondly about the relationship that you two share in the pool. How would you describe the bond that you have with her?
Duné Coetzee and I bring the speed out of each other. Ever since our first race in PE, I knew she would be a force to be reckoned with. We share many exciting memories with each other. For example, making our very first Junior African team, competing at the Commonwealth Youth Games together and being the only Juniors to represent South Africa at Senior World Champs in South Korea last year. We have a mutual respect for each other and love racing each other. It’s awesome racing someone who pushes you to achieve your best. It also makes it exciting and fun!
Are there any other female swimmers who you are close with?
Having been blessed to represent South Africa in both junior and senior teams, I have been privileged enough to form so many friendships with the SA swimmers as well as swimmers overseas. Our female swimmers are close. We support, encourage and motivate each other.
I train with Erin Gallagher and she has become one of my very best friends. We have been able to strengthen our friendship through travelling together and encouraging each other.
Having the support of these amazing female swimmers has been special.
When did you start developing a love for swimming?
My sister, Abigail Meder, started training under coach, Bianca Marais, at Tygerberg Aquatics. I always loved doing what she did. So, I wanted to do the same! I used to sit and watch her swim every afternoon and all I wanted to do was join in. I started swimming at age 8. Little did I know what journey that would start. As I started competing, and my times started improving, so my love for the sport developed. At age 9, I was selected to represent Western Province at Triaq (this was the league under western province league). I won 10 gold medals and it was after this gala that I decided that I wanted to become an Olympic swimmer.
“I am incredibly blessed to have had Bianca and now Graham in my life. I think the love for swimming just keeps growing and strengthening.” – Meder chats about her swimming journey.
Bianca Marais, my first coach, educated me and opened my eyes to the swimming world. She encouraged me and pushed me to achieve my best and this added to my love of the sport. I moved to Durban in January 2019 and now swim under Graham Hill at Seagulls Swimming Club. Graham has extended my vision, broadened my experience, motivates, encourages and believes in me. I am incredibly blessed to have had Bianca and now Graham in my life. I think the love for swimming just keeps growing and strengthening.
When was your first race and what was that experience like?
I cannot remember my very first race, but I can remember my very first DQ. Just before my race I was telling my friend how I had never been disqualified before. I remember it was a 200m breaststroke…I slipped at the start and fell into the water. I still swam the whole race, but after that, my parents would joke with me and call me “Plop”. I do however remember that I fell in love with racing. I loved the feeling of racing, the adrenaline rush and the tactical ways of racing.
What would you say have been your biggest highlights of your career so far?
I am blessed to say that I have had many highlights and have had the privilege and opportunity to have represented my country internationally, very often. If I had to single out three highlights, they would have to be Commonwealth Youth Games (Bahamas), Senior World’s Short Course (China) and Senior World Long Course (South Korea).
I am able to call myself a three-time Commonwealth Youth medallist. This is something that is special to me!
Being able to compete at the highest level of swimming at age 16 and being the youngest SA swimmer on both teams was an honour. I learnt so much about the sport and myself too. This opened my eyes to how big this sport is. It has made me even more driven and motivated to succeed at this level.
Having competed on the international stage, what lessons have you taken away from that experience?
As mentioned above, I have competed on the international stage. I have done so 9 times excluding three Mare Nostrums and some galas in Italy.
I have learnt that nothing comes without hard work and plenty of sacrifice. If you want to achieve at the world’s highest level, you have to be mentally strong, have to adjust to things quickly and think differently to most people. If your race doesn’t go as well as you had hoped and planned for, you analyse it, learn from it and then put it behind you and move forward. I am also constantly reminded that I do this sport because I LOVE it, it brings me joy and it challenges me.
Before Covid-19 struck, what were you planning to achieve this year?
I had the 2020 Olympic Games in my vision. For the last 8 and a half years, this has been my dream. I changed my schooling system and experienced a whole lot of other changes too in order to achieve this goal. Just before lockdown happened, I competed at the Durban Grand Prix. Here I swam 0.2 seconds off the Olympic A qualifying time for the 200m, one month before our Olympic trials. Graham Hill, my coach, had a whole year of traveling and competing planned for the build up to Tokyo 2020. My dream is still burning inside of me. Maybe it will just have to be delayed slightly.
Apart from swimming, what else are you interested in?
I love spending time with my family and friends. I enjoy camping, going crayfishing on my grandpa’s boat, hiking, going to the beach and even just going out for a cup of coffee. I love music, playing my violin, enjoy painting and recently, because of lockdown, I’ve started gardening.
What is your greatest ambition?
My biggest ambition when it comes to my swimming is to one day stand on that Olympic podium and sing my National Anthem.
Ultimately, I swim because God has gifted me with this talent. I swim to glorify Him and worship Him!
Photo 1 Caption: Three-time Commonwealth Youth medallist, Rebecca Meder, has a burning desire to represent South Africa at the Olympic Games and believes that her chance will come when the time is right. Photo: Supplied
Photo 2 Caption: Before lockdown struck due to the spread of Covid-19, Meder raced at the Durban Grand Prix where she swam 0.2 seconds off the Olympic A qualifying time. Photo: Supplied
Photo 3 Caption: For the past 8 and a half years, she has been preparing to make her dream a reality by changing to home schooling and finishing her last four years in a space of 2 and a half years to free-up 2020 in order to compete in Tokyo. Photo: Supplied
Photo 4 Caption: However, Meder has remained upbeat and is hopeful that her dream delayed is not a dream denied and continues to believe that everything will fall into place in due time. Photo: Supplied
Photo 5 Caption: Meder frequently competes on the international scene and highlights participating at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Bahamas, Senior World’s Short Course in China and Senior World Long Course in South Korea as her outstanding moments so far. Photo: Supplied