University of Cape Town (UCT) swimming captain and chairperson Matthew Bowers has been selected to compete in the South African team at the Senior African Swimming Championships in Algiers, Algeria later this month.
Bowers, who is completing his honours in business science information systems, received the exciting news at the end of July and will be heading off to Algeria on Saturday, 8 September. The championships take place from 10 to 16 September.
This is the first time Bowers has been included in a senior national team and marks a massive highlight in his 12 years of competitive swimming.
“The news came as a really nice surprise. I’d approached it with an ‘if it happened, it happened’ kind of attitude, so was very chuffed when I heard that I’d made the team,” he said.
His target, first and foremost, is to improve on the times he has been reaching in training sessions.
“I do obviously hope to bring back a couple of medals too. That would be a nice souvenir.”
“I do obviously hope to bring back a couple of medals too.”
As a sprinter, Bowers will be participating mainly in the shorter distances – 50 and 100 metres – focusing on freestyle and butterfly.
Balancing studies and sport
In preparation for the championships, Bowers has been training daily with his club, SwimLab.
“For the past few months, my routine has been to get at least 90 minutes of pool time a day, with another hour of gym, if possible. I train mostly in the evenings and take Sundays off as my rest day.”
Of course, setting that amount of time aside for training is no mean feat, especially for a student pursuing a postgraduate degree.
Is it possible to attain some sort of balance?
“It’s actually very possible,” he said.
As well as being a competitive swimmer for the past 12 years, Bowers has also filled a variety of leadership roles, including captaining both his school and UCTʼs swimming teams.
“With all this comes a lot of discipline and consistency. The more consistent you are in a sport, the more disciplined you become. So, if you really want something, you will go out and get it.”
Bowers will be taking text books, reading material and notes to Algeria, so he can work on his thesis between events.
“I just need to swim, focus on the race, and then start hitting the books.”
“I would, of course, like to go there and just have some fun. But I know that’s not going to happen. I just need to swim, focus on the race, and then start hitting the books,” he said.
A strong support system
Bowers has a strong support base at home, with parents who have cheered him on from the start.
“My dad and mom are my biggest supporters. They’ve always been watching me swimming and they have never put much pressure on me.”
He is particularly grateful to his father, who sacrificed many an early morning to drive him to training sessions, galas and events from a young age.
“These days, he doesn’t need to do that anymore, obviously. But ... I’m really glad that I can make him proud.”
According to Bowers, not being put under pressure to achieve is one of the main reasons he’s excelled at swimming.
“I think it has actually kept me in the sport a lot longer than I might have been if [my parents] did force me into anything.”
He has big dreams for his future.
“Taking part in the 2020 Olympic Games is my next big goal, so I have a year-and-a-half to train for that,” he said.
“Taking part in the 2020 Olympic Games is my next big goal.”
Since he will be moving to Johannesburg after completing his degree at the end of the year, a smooth transition will be crucial for his training schedule.
“I hope to find a swimming club that will be close to my new home and/or office. Since I will no longer be studying, I’ll have more time in the mornings and evenings to train. I really look forward to that,” Bowers said.
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