South African freestyle swimmer Brad Tandy is heading for the Rio Olympics later this year.
The United States based sprinter nailed a 22.13 seconds finish in the heats of the 50m sprint at last month’s national aquatic championships in Durban and cemented his spot by winning the final, again within the qualifying mark of 22.27sec.
He took time out from wrapping up a MIS (Management Information Systems) degree at the University of Arizona to tell Road to Rio 2016 just what went through his mind in the Kings Park Pool.
“After my first race I was comfortably under the qualifying time and couldn’t even begin to explain the relief I felt looking up at the board knowing I was one step closer to achieving my lifelong dream.
“But I knew that to secure my place on the South African team I had to place first or second in the finals the following night. I was up against longtime rival and mentor, Roland Schoeman, who was trying out for his fifth Olympics.”
Tandy duly did the job, inside the qualifying mark once more, putting him top of the 50m free pile in South Africa.
Still, the reality hadn’t set in. “The amount of focus and determination took precedence over excitement. Actually, it was only a few hours later when I came to terms with what I had accomplished. And even now I still can’t believe that I have become what I am today.”
Yes, it’s a long way from Ladysmith, KwaZulu-Natal to Rio, Brazil, via Tucson where the Durban-born swimmer celebrated his 25th birthday early in May, right in the middle of his final exams. It’s his second degree, having already got an Associate in Arts degree at Indian River State College in Florida.
He’s been guided by a variety of coaches, Ivan Ball to begin with, then Pietermaritzburg’s Wayne Ridden, on to Ryan Mallam at Indian River State College before finally settling down in Arizona with Rick de Mont who coached the gold medal winning 4×100 freestyle team at the 2004 Athens Olympics – Ryk Neethling, Schoeman, Lyndon Ferns and Darian Townsend.
During his six year swim spell in the States, the awards and accolades have come thick and fast. He’s a 12-time National Junior Collegiate Athletes Association champion and five time record-holder. He’s also been awarded swimmer of the year and top athlete overall in the state of Florida.
Two years ago he was also part of Team South Africa at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, Scotland where he was sixth overall in the 50m free.
More recently he swam US nationals in Washington late last year where he placed second in a personal record 21.87 which ranks him 11th in the world right now.
Going into Rio and Tandy plans on finishing up his studies while continuing to train and race. “I’ll meet up with the SA team a month out of Rio in order to bond and train together. We’ll then head down to Rio and adjust to the time change before hitting the Olympic village and preparing ourselves for the big show.
When it comes to Rio, realistic is Tandy’s expectation. “I’m a little unsure for now. I know I can repeat another sub-22sec, 21.7 or better. If I can do this in both the morning and semifinal, I may have a spot in the finals where I hope to get as close to first as I can.
“It’s quite difficult since the 50 is such a close event time wise. If I make semifinals, top 16 in the world or better I will be very proud.” – African News Agency (ANA)