DESPITE not having much competitive race experience recently since completing his studies at the University of Kentucky last year, US-based Zimbabwean swimmer Peter Wetzlar is relishing the opportunity to represent the country at the Tokyo Olympic Games.
Wetzlar was born in Harare before initially moving to South Africa and later the US for his education will compete in the 100m freestyle at the Tokyo Olympics which get underway on Friday.
He will be accompanied at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre by Harare-based rising teen swimming sensation Donata Katai, who is competing in the 100m backstroke.
The pair earned their places in Tokyo via two universality slots that were awarded to Zimbabwe Swimming by the International Swimming Federation (FINA)
Wetzlar admitted that although he is excited to be representing the country at the world’s biggest stage in sport, he was also nervous due to lack of race experience recently.
The 24-year-old US-based swimmer had his final swimming season with University of Kentucky cut short last year following the NCAA’s cancelation of Division I men’s and women’s 2020 sports competition due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Finance and a Bachelor of Science in Accounting, Wetzlar has been working as a tax staff for a public accounting, consulting, and technology firm in Kentucky’s second largest city of Lexington in the US.
In addition to his work commitments the Zimbabwean swimmer has also been preparing for the upcoming Olympics.
“I’m excited, but also a bit nervous,” Wetzlar said in an interview with Lex 18 TV, a local channel Lexington ahead of his departure for Tokyo yesterday.
“This year we haven’t had many opportunities to compete so I’m nervous that I haven’t got that race experience but I’m excited to race. It’s a dream come true for me really, a lot of hard work it’s been an amazing journey.”
Despite having previously represented Zimbabwe at other major swimming competitions, Wetzlar described the opportunity to compete at the Olympics as the crowning moment of his career.
Wetzlar became the first male from Zimbabwe to represent the country at the FINA World Championships in 2016, competing in the 50- and 100-meter freestyle events.
“It’s an honour really to represent my country on the world stage. I’ve represented Zimbabwe on the international stage (in FINA World Championships) before but obviously nothing is like the Olympics, so it’s a huge honor for me. Obviously Zimbabwe does not have the resources behind sport like some of the other countries, a lot of athletes in Zimbabwe are struggling financially so pretty special to be able to have the opportunity and everyone is really special and to have everyone behind us.
He added: It’s a bit disappointing that there won’t be any fans. throughout my college career at UK (University of Kentucky) I always loved the energy of the fans so I guess it’s going to be a different experience but I guess we will all be in the same boat so it’s not be any hindrance me as much as it is to anyone else,” he said.
The Zimbabwean swimmer, who attended the Durban-based private school Westville Boys prior to his move to the US on a swimming scholarship, also paid special acknowledgment to his alma mater the University of Kentucky for the role it played making his Olympic dream a reality.
“Kentucky made a huge difference in my career, I wasn’t maybe in a good position to qualify for the Olympics when I started at UK but over the last four years my development has been huge especially in the last year and a half under my coach Michael Camper. Working with him has been hugely beneficial for me,” he said.
Wetzlar was scheduled to leave for Japan yesterday from his base in the United States while Katai and the Zimbabwe swimming coach Lindsay Tudor-Cole left Harare for Tokyo on the same day.
In addition to swimming Zimbabwe is also fielding three other athletes from rowing, athletics and golf at the Tokyo Olympics which are running from Friday to August 8.
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Author : Zimbabwe Standard
Publish date : 2021-07-19 15:39:45