Swimming: Driven Howick star sets her sights on Rio and beyond

2013-08-10 00:00

TWO years ago, Jamie Reynolds from Howick was part of the team that went to Nigeria to represent South Africa at the All Africa Junior Games.

The 15-year-old swimmer, a pupil at Pietermaritzburg’s St John’s DSG, returned with four gold medals and one silver.

So bright are her prospects that she has been named in a group of eight young swimmers that Swimming South Africa believe could carry the nation’s hopes at future Olympic Games in 2016, 2020, and beyond.

For Jamie though, her eye is squarely fixed on the 2016 games in Rio de Janeiro.

“I started swimming competitively at the age of eight,” she told Weekend Witness.

Her strongest disciplines are the backstroke and butterfly, and her hero and mentor, Atlanta Olympic Games gold medallist Penny Heyns, is regarded as one of the greatest female swimmers South Africa has ever produced.

“I really look up to her,” she says. “I’ve met her quite often and I like listening to the stories that she has to tell.”

Next year she says she wants to go to the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, and her ultimate dream is to go to Rio in 2016.

“I hold all of the school records,” she says when asked how she does in school galas and adds that her rivals are her team-mates due to the similar times that they swim.

She says she has also had to sacrifice team sports like hockey, which she enjoyed, to focus on swimming.

After completing school, “I hope to get offered a scholarship to go and study in America,” she says.

Her father Bryan says Jamie is a motivated and driven child who has had her path mapped out from a young age.

“She trains hard and is very motivated. She started swimming competitively when she was eight, and she’s been continually focused,” he said.

“She really wants to go to the Olympics, and it’s a decision she made when she was about 10. As parents, we have to support her dreams.”

Jamie’s first ever swimming coach was Rita Townsend, mother of Darian Townsend, who was part of South Africa’s “Awesome Foursome” at the 2004 Athens Olympic Games. She saw enormous potential in her.

“She told us we would have to get used to sitting on the side of the pool because she was very good,” said Bryan.

“Swimming South Africa have identified an elite group of eight girls between the ages of 11 and 15 who they believe will do well at the Olympics,” said Bryan, adding the swimmers would receive financial backing from the sport’s governing body.

St John’s DSG marketing co-ordinator Robyn Kirkby says she’s watched Jamie swimming since she was young, and even then, “no one could touch her” in the pool.

“She’s committed and she’s going to go places,” she said.

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