SA backstroke champion wants to set new personal best at Worlds

aquatics24 January 2024 10:30| © SuperSport
By:Wilhelm de Swardt
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Hannah Pearse © Gallo Images

The South African 200m-backstroke champion Hannah Pearse's only goal at next month's World Championships in Doha is to be faster than last year.

If she succeeds, it proves that all the long, hard hours in the pool were not in vain. In the buildup to Worlds, on most days, the 20-year-old Tuks swimmer has two sessions in the pool swimming for about five hours. It works out to nearly 10 kilometres a day.

You will never hear the BSc psychology, physiology and genetics student complain.

"When I am swimming, I am in a happy place. All that matters is ensuring I execute every tiny part of my technique flawlessly because I know that will bring me closer to fulfilling my goals. I will do anything to be one of the world's best swimmers."

Pearse considers her performance during last year's World Student Games in Chengdu, China, a definite highlight.

"During the semifinal, I set a new personal best time swimming 2:12.04. I was sixth in the final. The World Student Games was a reality check for me. I realised that to be competitive, I needed to work harder. It is easy to get complacent when you only compete in South Africa."

Pearse's time of 2:12.04 is 1.25 seconds off the qualifying standard for the Paris Olympic Games.

"To be honest to compete at the Paris Olympic Games was not one of my goals for 2023. I did not expect to be so close to qualifying. But I am not going to be obsessed about it. If I swim a qualifying time, it is fine; if I don't, it is not the end of the world. All I want to do at Worlds is to swim a new personal best time and qualify at least for the semifinals. My focus is the 2028 Olympic Games."

Tatjana Smith (Schoenmaker) is Pearse's role model.

"Tatjana's achievements made me realise that you can dream big when training at Tuks. To be in the pool every day with Tatjana is inspirational. She sets the standard so high. If I can be half the swimmer she is in a year or two from now, I will be happy. Tatjana is the one swimmer who really cares about others. She is always prepared to share what she has learned and continuously encourages us to push the limits. If I can be half the swimmer she is in a year or two from now, I will be happy."

To relax, Pearse loves nothing more than reading. A good romance story is her thing. But she also loves reading biographies. According to her, AB de Villiers was one of the best books she has read.

"What I liked is AB's passion for the game. He was on a continuous quest to be better today than he was yesterday. It is inspirational.

"I also like to do sewing to forget about swimming fast times. The closer I get to a big meeting, the more I tend to sew. I mostly do bags, but I would like to make my own clothes at some stage."