#TuksAthletics: Snyman without job and in debt but excited to compete in Rio

Posted on August 10, 2016

Despite being jobless and in debt, South African race walker Wayne Snyman is still smiling and hungrier than ever to succeed.

When asked about his positive outlook in such dire circumstances, the Tuks/hpc race walker answered that when he competes in the 20 km Olympic race walk on Friday, it will be a dream come true.

Snyman, who improved his best time by more than three minutes since last year, is quite honest about his goal. 'My racing approach on Friday may surprise a lot of people. It is a whole new race strategy. If it pays off I will come close to improving on my best time of 1:20:46, which means that I could finish in the top ten or better.'

Because of the hot and humid conditions, it is predicted that the winning time on Friday will be in the vicinity of 1 hour and 19 minutes.

According to Snyman, there were three defining moments in his athletics career. 'For as long as I can remember, my goal has always been to represent South Africa at the Olympic Games, but I was not quite sure in which sport I was going to do so. The first defining moment in my sports career was when I accepted a dare at school to compete in a 3 000 metre race walk. I won and set a new record. When a coach told me afterwards that I was born to be a race walker, I decided to give it a go.'

The next big, defining moment of Snyman's sports career happened last year. He qualified to represent South Africa in the 20 km race walk at the World Championships in Beijing, only to be told at the last moment that he would not be allowed to compete because the race in which he qualified did not comply with the standards set by the IAAF.

According to the rules of the IAAF, an athlete's time can only be accepted as an official qualification performance if there were three international judges present at the race. This was not the case when Snyman set a personal best time of 1:23:42 at last year's national championships.

Because of this disappointment, Snyman and his wife Nadelene had a long, serious discussion about his athletics career at the end of last year. 'We both realized that, at the age of 31, time was running out for me to represent South Africa at the highest level. So we agreed that I should resign my job as a teacher at Waterkloof Primary School and train full time. It was not an easy decision. I love teaching and will definitely teach again after I stop racing internationally. It is a calling,' he said.

The third defining moment for Snyman was when he asked Australia's David Smith to coach him. Smith finished tenth in the 20 km race walk during the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles. His son, Dane Bird-Smith, is also a race walker who boasts a best time of 1:19:38. With Smith's guidance, Snyman managed to improve his best time by more than three minutes during the last seven months.

So serious is Snyman about performing at his best in Rio that he spent six months training and competing internationally this year. His dedication and commitment had a serious impact on his financial situation. According to the Tuks/hpc athlete, it cost him approximately R140 000 to prepare for the Games.


- Author Wilhelm de Swardt

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