Being fast is essential to Erin Gallagher; it is what motivates her to swim for hours most days, but there is more to the Tuks student than trying to become a champion.
The 24-year-old is studying BSc Geography and Environmental Science student at Tuks.
"The world's population is expected to increase by nearly two billion persons in the next 30 years. A direct consequence is an ecological degradation and a higher risk of natural disasters," explains the Commonwealth Games medallist.
"I hope through my studies to make a difference. Currently, I plan to work as an urban planner. My role would be to ensure there are no dire consequences to the environment during an urban development project. But I tend to change my mind quickly. I might even go into disaster management when I finish studying."
Gallagher still has some dreams to fulfil before she becomes a fulltime working woman. Her immediate goal is to qualify to represent South Africa at the World Championships in Japan in July.
During a recent Grand Prix Meeting in Durban, she swam B-qualifying times in the 50m-butterfly (26.87s), the 100m-butterfly (59.59s) and the 100m-freestyle (55.97s).
"Obviously, I would have liked to swim A-qualifying times, but considering that I have not tapered at all, I am happy with my times. There are still a few hard blocks of training I got to get through before the national championships. I plan to peak at the national championships in April.
"I certainly need to work on becoming stronger in the water. From a technical perspective, my kick could be better. Actually, there is a whole list of small things we are currently working on."
The Tuks swimmer will aim to defend her SA 50m- and 100m-butterfly titles. She might even medal in the 100 or 200-metre freestyle events on a good day. Gallagher is unsure how many medals she has won at the SA Senior Champs but guesses it could be as many as 15.
So which does she prefer, butterfly or freestyle?"
"It is difficult to answer. It always used to be freestyle, but somehow, the butterfly came into the mix. My focus is mainly on improving my times in the butterfly events. But I have found that training for the butterfly also strengthens you in the freestyle."
"'75 metres," Gallagher answers when asked what she considers her best distance.
"If only there could have been 75-metre events in swimming. I could have 'cleaned up'," Tuks's Sportswoman of the Year jokes.
On a more serious note, she added that 100 metres suited her best.
"Two lengths is more than enough for me. Although I will swim the 200m-freestyle at the national championships. It is a fun event for me. There are quite a few good swimmers. So it is never a done deal as to who will win."
Gallagher considers the 100m-freestyle as one of the most brutal events.
"Often twenty minutes after I swam the 100m-freestyle, my body still produces lactic acid."