PORT Elizabeth paralympic swimmer Kevin Paul is home after a rigorous week of training under the watchful eye of Dr Karen Hugo, the head biokinethetist at the Stellenbosch University Sports Institute.
Paul, who at the age of 17 won the gold medal in the 100 metre breast-stroke at the Beijing Paralympics in 2008, has qualified for four races to date for the London Paralympics in August and September and is currently at the height of his preparation.
Paul’s week in the wine country consisted of nine swimming sessions of between two and three hours each, gym work and conditioning programmes which took in road work on Hellshoogte Pass and the steps of the Danie Craven rugby stadium.
Paul is a sprint swimmer, having qualified for the 50 metre freestyle, 100 metre freestyle, 100 metre breast-stroke and 200 metre individual medley in London. However, the focus in Stellenbosch was on building his endurance which will stand him in good stead as he looks to also qualify for the 400 metre freestyle at an international meet in Germany in late June.
“I was swimming with Olympic 1500 metre swimmer, Heerden Human, and Beijing paralympic 400 metre freestyle gold medallist, Charl Bouwer, in Stellenbosch,” said Paul. “Charl and I were roommates in Beijing when I won gold in the 100 metre breast-stroke and it was great to train with him and Human. All our work with Dr Hugo was swim specific and that in itself was very good for me mentally.”
The accommodation that Kevin enjoyed in Stellenbosch was the same as that afforded to the Springbok Sevens and Western Province Rugby Academy players. “Sun International collaborated in the building of the new academy of sport they’ve got there and it really was five-star,” said Paul. “The pool, gym, doctors, physios and sports psychologists were all there. We also had a designated chef who cooked to our exact needs. It really was one of the best places I’ve ever stayed in. I was very tired when the week was over but it’s set me up very nicely for the final push here at home with my coach Brian Elliot.”
Sascoc has allocated 11 slots for swimmers for the London Paralympics, six for men and five for women, and Paul would appear to be a lock on the team as the defending champion in his favourite 100 metre breast-stroke event in which he also holds the world record. “My world ranking is very strong in the other races I qualified for at the Olympic Qualifier in Durban in March,” said Paul. “Hopefully I’ll be able to up my tally of events from three in Beijing to five in London. I’ve already received the pre-Olympic travelling arrangements from Sascoc and that in itself is a good sign that I’ll be on the team which they’ll be naming in late May or early June.”
Paul has two exams to get through in the coming weeks in year-two of his law degree at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University. He will then fly out to Germany on the 25th of June for a training camp and their national championships where he hopes to qualify in the 400 metre freestyle.
The paralympic team will then spend the first week of July in Italy but will be back in South Africa during the Olympic Games in July and August. “By the time the closing ceremony takes place we should already be in the holding camp in Wales ahead of the paralympics,” said Paul.
The former Grey High School pupil turns 21 on 30 June the third year in a row that he will be out of the country on his birthday. Born with no pectoral muscles in the left side of his chest, Kevin’s left arm is slightly shorter than his right and he has adapted his stroke to swim predominately with his shoulder muscles. He swims in the S10 disability category for freestyle, backstroke and butterfly and the SB9 category for breast-stroke.