Lights. Camera. Fireworks!
We have just closed the curtain on The 2010 Commonwealth Games. Athletes around the world have returned to their turfs, some with more endorsements deals than before while others wish their names were never uttered.
South Africa had an exceptional tournament, with 33 medals and earning the 5th spot on the medals table. SA’s greatest strength being the pool, after some of our major athletes had to pull out due to injuries. in(TRACK)suit had the pleasure of getting a one-on-one with one of our stars: Mark Randall.
Currently a USA citizen, Randall is a 24 year-old Crimson Tide record holder in the 500, 1000 and 1650 freestyles, a four-year finalist in the distance events at the SEC Championships and a three-year scorer at the NCAA Championships. He also earned the Tide’s Mike Curington Most Valuable and Marshall Shoemaker Most Dedicated awards. (www.whoswhosa.co.za).
Firstly Mark, thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to answer these. You were born and raised in the Eastern Cape, a Selborne College graduate. One can argue that Rugby and Cricket are the two codes highly popular in this province. Why Swimming?
Well, as I am sure you would have guessed I did initially play rugby and cricket growing up. My mother was a swimmer and she tried to get me involved in the sport. I initially hated the sport and in 1997 a new coach arrived at my swimming club, my mom took me along and he made me fall in love with the sport. I also think that I was lucky enough to have success right away when I started swimming.
Roland Schoeman and Ryk Neethling are the names hugely associated with South African swimming. Do you think Delhi has introduced a new generation of successful swimmers from SA? (Elaborate, mainly who? Why? and will these names live up to the standards created by Schoeman and Neethling)
I definitely agree that there were many breakthrough swims for a number of younger swimmers on the team in Delhi. I mean Chad Le Clos stole the show in Delhi and he definitely has bright future ahead of him. Gideon Louw had a great competition in the sprint events and another young guy Heerden Herman also had a great swim in the 1500 meter freestyle.
I really think that we have all areas covered in terms of swimming events, from sprints to distance events. The thing is there are also younger kids behind these guys who are waiting for their opportunity to shine, but I definitely believe that the foundation was laid by the likes of Ryk and Roland and the relay from 2004, they really helped raise the profile of the sport here in South Africa.
You have just returned from Dheli, Would you say SA had a successful campaign compared to previous tours? Or can we not compare?
I think the swimmers did a fantastic job in Delhi, we won four more medals than what we did in Melbourne four years ago and our team was smaller this time around. In terms of comparing how we did, obviously we won more medals this time round, but given the fact that it was not the best of circumstances the team responded really well and did an outstanding job to rise to the occasion.
Are you suggesting the tournament was as ‘troubled’ as perceived?
The Games were not as bad as what people were making out before they had even begun. It could have been a lot worse, I never ever felt as if I was in any danger at any time. The pool where we swam was one of the best pools I have ever swum in. All in all I was very happy with my experience at the games. (Reports suggest
Athens 2004 did what for SA swimming? And for you personally.
Like I mentioned earlier, the results of the swimmers in Athens really helped raise the profile of swimming in South Africa, it showed people here and around the world that we as South Africans were capable of anything that we set our minds to and we could compete with anyone in the world. For me personally it showed that anything was possible, if you worked hard and set your mind to it you could do anything you wanted – the sky was the limit!
You were awarded a full scholarship to the US. Congratulations. Can you share what this meant for you as a young athlete from SA and specifically from the Eastern Cape?
It was a great honour and privilege for me. It meant that all the hard work and early mornings had paid off. In addition it gave me the opportunity to earn a degree and compete at a high level all at the same time. I was just proud to represent my country and province over there in the USA.
You have followed the path of African big names such as Darian Townsend and Kirsty Coventry, and went overseas. Would you say that’s a trend amongst swimmers or a necessity?
I think when it comes down to it, it’s all about what you think is going to be the best situation for you to perform and be at your best. Many swimmers have remained in South Africa and had tremendous success. An example of that would be Cameron Van Der Burgh. At the time it was the best move for me and I have not regretted it, it has been worth it every step of the way. In the end it is what you think is best for you. I do think it is an invaluable experience and if you immerse yourself fully in it you will reap the rewards.
Any plans of coming home? You must miss your family and friends.
Of course home will always be home, I do really miss my home and family. It was one of those sacrifices that I needed to make and they have supported me one hundred percent through the whole process. If a good opportunity were to present itself I would definitely consider coming back home.
You have had a successful career at such a young age. How has this affected your relationship with God (if at all)? How difficult is it to remain grounded in God’s grace with this success?
I am very grateful to God for everything that he has blessed me with, not just my swimming,. I count my blessings everyday and there have been times when I have had to call on God to help me stay grounded and humble no matter what. If it were not for God I would not be where I am today and I would not have experienced everything that I have, I have Him to thank for everything.
Do you think it’s harder for someone in the spot light to maintain a relationship with God? How so?
Yes I think it can be. Life can become so hectic and we get caught up in everyday things. Sometimes we just need to take a moment and stop, take stoke of our lives and be thankful for what we have. What I have learnt is that things may change around us but the only consistent thing in our lives is God. He is always there for you no matter what and that is a great comfort.
Has the likes of Michael Phelps, Marion Jones and Tiger Woods, shaped the perception of athletes?
I think athletes are perceived in different ways from other people, and they get a certain status. I have not been in a situation where people have labeled better than someone else. At the end of the day no matter who you are we are all just people.
What has their ‘fall from grace’ taught you as an athlete specifically as a Christian?
As a high profile athlete you are always in the public eye, so therefore you are always subject to public scrutiny. I can understand being on your best behaviour all the time can be quite exhausting and as athletes they just want to be people. But they are also role models and people look up to them, so it’s a very fine line. I have always been taught to do my best in all areas but knowing that I have God there to guide me I have been very fortunate that I have not found myself in any of their situations.
SA has just hosted the biggest tournament in history; did you follow it at all? And who were you supporting apart from Bafana Bafana.
I did follow the world cup, it was amazing to watch it on TV, the other country that I supported was the Netherlands, and they almost made it!
How has the WC change the world’s view of our country?
Everybody that I spoke to said that it was great event and I think it helped people change their minds and perceptions about South Africa. It showed that we were able to host events of this magnitude, without any major hiccups.
Thank you for you time Mark, my last question. We are in the semi-finals of the Currie Cup, will the Bulls take it, or do you reckon we will be crowning new Currie Cup Champs? If so, who do you see rising to the challenge?
Well I am sure that everyone would have liked to have seen a Bulls and Sharks final, I think that game is going to be even better than the final. I think that whoever wins out of that semi will go onto win the Currie Cup, although the Cheetahs could cause an upset and make it through to the final. I am hoping for a Shark win.
When many stars have fallen to the trap of self-gratification and self-praise, it is always great to see young role models in this industry and Mark Randall is exactly that. Someone we can all be proud of.
Deep Dive into success.