Swimming: The Sprenger way to bouncing back

Swimming: The Sprenger way to bouncing back
Australian swimmer Christian Sprenger conducting a clinic for children at Marina Bay Sands’ infinity pool yesterday.

He has the famous five rings tattooed on his chest, indicating how much the Olympic Games means to Christian Sprenger.

World-class swimmers like the 2012 London Games silver-medallist wake up in the wee hours of the morning and train for around five hours a day, for most of the year, and their biggest goal is to win gold at the Olympics, which only rolls around once every four years.

Speaking to The New Paper at the infinity pool at the SkyPark at Marina Bay Sands yesterday, Sprenger said: "I still have not won it yet, and Rio 2016 is definitely the goal.

"But winning the Olympic gold is not the end. It does not mean everything is complete."

The 28-year-old Aussie is in town to promote the Singapore Swim Stars, a star-studded competition with an unprecedented format (see story on right) that will take place at the OCBC Aquatic Centre from Sept 5 to 7.

HEADLINES

Over the last couple of months, former Australian swim star Geoff Huegill and legend Ian Thorpe have been in the headlines, battling demons of drug addiction and depression, respectively.

It seemed as if the duo were unable to come to terms with retirement, struggling to fill the void with no more training and competition and the high-octane thrills of swimming at the highest level.

"It's sad and I wish they will come back stronger," said Sprenger, who also contemplated quitting the sport in 2011 when he "lost a bit of drive".

He found a new lease of life after he dropped his pet event, the 200m breaststroke, to focus on the 100m breast.

At the 2013 World Championships, he clocked a new personal best of 58.79 sec to beat South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh to the 100m breast gold, avenging his defeat in the 2012 Olympic final.

Sprenger added: "The transition from being a competitive swimmer to hanging up your goggles can be tricky, so it's important to have a plan.

"I'm studying business and marketing at the moment and I also have a relationship with Speedo, so I would love to stay in the sport even after retiring."

Sprenger conducted a clinic for a group of special-needs children from the Sands for Singapore programme yesterday, along with boys from the SportCares Saturday Night Lights programme.

One of them, 12-year-old Ahmad Izzuddin, was awestruck.

The Yuhua Secondary School student said: "It was fun and educational. We learnt how to swim faster with better technique and breathing methods. And it was all the more special swimming with a world champion at the MBS Infinity Pool."

Having worked at a supermarket, in various bars and at a sports store to scrape together enough money to move out of the family home in Brisbane last year, Sprenger has experienced some difficult times.

Eight years ago, he angered his parents when he quit his job to devote himself to winning a place on the 2006 Commonwealth Games team. He then suffered heartbreak when he did not make one individual final at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

ADVICE

Based on his experience, he offered up some advice for Singapore's up-and-coming star, Joseph Schooling.

"Every experience is a chance to learn," said Sprenger.

"He is still 18 so he has to remain positive about swimming.

"He's got to set the big goals and small goals. Obviously, we all want to be an Olympic champion, but first you have got to be the best in your state, your country, your region, your continent, before you get there.

"The process of getting there is important and you cannot not have a plan.

"If he continues to train hard, eat the right way and make the necessary sacrifices, I'm sure we will see him do well."

This article was published on May 21 in The New Paper.

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