SWIMMING UPSTREAM: Part one – Ramsgate swimmer living American dream

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Quintin van Jaarsveld

Ramsgate swimmer Denita-Sue Pieterse is living her American dream after overcoming life-altering adversity.

The 18-year-old is in her element at Emmanuel Christian College in Franklin Springs, Georgia, where she’s just two short months into her four-year swimming scholarship.

In short – she’s made it. She’s realised her childhood dream of swimming and studying in America. A small town swimmer making it big is a rare and remarkable feat in and of itself, however, it’s what she’s managed to overcome in her young life that makes her journey to the USA extra-ordinary.

A shock scoliosis diagnoses at 12 years of age changed her life and threatened to dash her dream. In a sink-or-swim scenario, she continued to believe, went the extra mile in training and made a massive splash in the process.

Now, for the first time, Pieterse opens up about the challenges she’s faced in and out of the pool and talks about how swimming shaped her life in an in-depth four-part series.
Iconic former South African president Nelson Mandela famously said, “Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire. It has the power to unite people in a way that little else does.

“It speaks to youth in a language they understand. Sport can create hope where once there was only despair. It is more powerful than government in breaking down racial barriers.”

Sport also has the power to change lives. To shape lives, to motivate, to reveal character and take people to places never thought possible.

Pieterse is a perfect case-in-point.

“Swimming has taught me great responsibility and helped me to overcome so many physical and mental obstacles,” she told eHowzit.

“I can honestly say that I am where I am today because of swimming. It has really opened doors for me and gave me this great opportunity to study and swim for a great team. I’m very grateful for this opportunity and feel truly blessed.”

Richards Bay-born Pieterse’s love for swimming was sparked at just two years of age when her grandfather taught her how to swim.

The Pieterse family – parents Cobus and Belina and sisters Denita-Sue and Britney – relocated to the South Coast in 2007. The sisters attended Southcity, where a chance encounter led to them joining Margate Swimming Club.

“I was at a school gala in 2008 and the coach from Margate Swimming Club at that stage was Kurt Muller. He was the referee for the day and spoke to my mom about joining the club. My sister was the main reason for us wanting to join the club and I sort of tagged along and also started swimming.

“It was fun to swim and I wanted to swim and train with the club because my sister did quite well. She was nine at the time and I was 11. I was always just in the background until coach Kurt started training me and helping me with my strokes. I improved quickly and started loving the sport very much as well as the discipline it takes.”

It was the start of something special…


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