He is an Olympic and Commonwealth Games medallist in 50m butterfly. But Roland Schoeman's tale of glory started on an unusual note. As a 16-year-old in high school, the South African took to the pool. “There was this cute girl in the swimming team and I wanted to impress her,” he grins. Roland was successful and the couple dated for three months before her parents moved to another city. “It was short-lived,” he says. But his relationship with the pool only improved.
“I was more interested in other sports. I played cricket for my province (Northern Transvaal). I was also on the soccer team,” he says. But his “puppy love” inspired him to greater things, away from the pitch and into the water.
South Africa have a formidable swimming squad and will be up against powerhouses Australia. Schoeman, a triple Olympian and former world record holder, rates the Commonwealth Games second to the Olympics and counts Canada as a possible threat as well. “Our relay prospects look good. This is a team where I feel like I'm at home,” he says. Competing in his fourth Commonwealth Games, Schoeman isn't ruling out a fifth appearance at Glasgow 2014. “I'm having fun at the moment. This could be my last, maybe not. I might go to Glasgow,” he says.
After arriving in Delhi, he faced some problems and posted them on his Twitter profile: “Day 1 of Delhi: 24hrs no air-conditioning, most of the night spent without electricity (no fan) 4am and still haven't slept. Not the best of starts.”
The next day was no different. “Day 2 - food here in the village 7/10, facilities 9/10, athletes village 6/10, accommodation -3/10 (almost 48hrs and no air-conditioning, nothing seems to get done at all) unfortunately not acceptable for a Commonwealth Games,” he tweeted.
Things finally got better when the problem was rectified on Friday night. “Two gentlemen came to fix the air-conditioning in our apartment and I finally got a good night's sleep,” says Schoeman, heaving a sigh of relief.
About the Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Aquatics Complex, he says, “It is a beautiful place. It's a little cold though, but should be heated up soon. The pool is fast and I am looking forward to racing in it.”
Reaching the venue takes 30-40 minutes and the swimmers utilise the time well, earphones plugged into IPods. “We haven't faced any hassles while commuting away from the Village because of the dedicated Games lanes. We also use that time to recharge,” he says.
Away from the pool, Schoeman is an avid golfer. But for some reason, he has missed out on putting at the golf simulator in the Village. “I didn't know there was one here,” he says, looking surprised.
Having just moved base to France, Schoeman is also busy learning the language. “I understand French better than I speak it. So I'm trying really hard to pick it up,” he says. The water baby also loves being near the ocean. “When I'm in South Africa, I really enjoy body-surfing. Anything to do with the ocean,” he grins.