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Tokyo lessons should help Sates in Paris pool

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As he nears his second Games, Matthew Sates has learnt a lot about preparation, focus and adaptability throughout his qualification journey but does not expect the challenge to be any easier.

Matthew Sates of South Africa competes during the Men’s 400m Individual Medley heats at the FINA World Aquatics Championships in Doha, Qatar, 18 February 2024. Picture: EPA, YURI KOCHETKOV

THE TOKYO Olympics, held in 2021 in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic, birthed a superstar in the making for South Africa, and a few years later he will carry the hopes of his country into the Paris Olympics.

For many teenagers, life is a roller-coaster, and with high school life nearing an end, most would be trying to figure out what life after high school has in store for them.

For Matthew Sates, all the pieces of the puzzle came together when he qualified for the Olympics while he was still a minor.

Without a lot of expectations, the journey to Tokyo three years ago was a life-changing experience and one that would be more about learning and building up to the future.

As he nears his second Games, Sates has learnt a lot about preparation, focus and adaptability throughout his qualification journey but does not expect the challenge to be any easier.

“My journeys to Olympic qualifications started many years ago with countless hours spent in the pool, a routine that had to be flawless and a mindset like no other,” he said in an exclusive interview.

“I have spent the years improving my skills and pushing myself to limits I didn’t know were possible. I have competed nationally and Internationally over the years, and the experiences I have gained from competing have been an integral part of my Olympic journey.

“I qualified for the Tokyo Olympics when I was 17 years old. I raced at the Olympics in Tokyo on my 18th birthday and will now be racing at the Olympics in Paris on my 21st birthday.

“I have seen that athletes who perform at high standards have a meticulously planned training schedule, a mental resilience strategy and the ability to deal with unexpected challenges.

“I took a lot away from Tokyo, which has been incredibly beneficial. The racing never becomes easier but that is what I love about what I do,” he said.

A lot of South Africa’s medal hopes have been in the swimming pool, and Paris will be no different. Previous Olympic medallists Chad le Clos and Tatjana Smith will lead a strong SA swimming team and their experience has also rubbed off on the 20-year-old Sates.

“I have had the privilege of learning from Tatjana and Chad and am blessed by it. I have learnt that all things are possible through hard work and dedication.

“I have learnt that there will be good times and there will be bad times, however, it is how one handles it that makes the difference. I have learnt that if one wants to achieve at the highest levels there is no giving up.

“One must get up, show up and make it happen. When one race ends there is always the next race that will begin.

“The interaction, sportsmanship and camaraderie between fellow swimmers make the Olympic Games what it is – an experience of a lifetime.”

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