Local swimming sensation Calvin Price is ready to dive into his promising sporting career and leaves for the United States on Sunday to start a training program at an American university.
His mother Sheena Price, who is also his coach of 14 years, is bursting with pride and said her son has come a long way from the outdoor pool he used to train in, in the Free State town of Ficksburg. She said that they used to try keep the pool heated with a donkey and cow manure and “now he has a scholarship to an American university!”
Olivet Nazarene University in Illinois is where Price is going and the institution's head coach, Scott Teeters, said he has never come across a swimmer so hungry for success. Heavy words from a man who has over 25 years of experience on the pool deck and helped develop four-time Olympic medalist Peter Vanderkaay.
But he isn't exaggerating - Price managed to tackle the usual six-month application and admin stint in just four weeks. A Kingswood College matriculant of 2011, Price has been awarded a full sports scholarship to study and swim at Olivet, which is extremely rare.
The United States is internationally known for its sporting and academic opportunities, but “Calvin applied at the perfect time when Teeters was desperately looking for a breaststroker; we've been very lucky,” his mother said. But it was much more than luck that brought Price to where he is today.
For years he has trained rigorously; during school holidays he trained for four hours every weekday and during term time he logged two and a half hours daily. He also swam for an hour and a half on Saturdays. “Being able to get this far is just such a relief,” he said.
“I'm overwhelmed with joy. Finally all the sacrifices I've made for swimming, all the effort and time I've put in have paid off.” Price said at times he had wondered if all his sacrifices and dedication had been worth it. “I had thought: Why have we put so much time and effort in all these years? Where has it taken us?” he said.
Then he met South African swimming champion Penny Heyns who gave a coaching clinic in Grahamstown earlier this year and she made him realize that he could make a career from swimming - if he knew the right avenues to take.
Price enlisted the help of an American business called American College Connection where agents contact learning institutions for athletes and help them apply for bursaries. It is possible to contact the universities yourself, but although it's cheaper this is a more taxing option.
But Price will also be coming home to see his family, including his sister, Tamlyn. “Seeing what's happened to my brother it's inspired a lot of us to swim harder,” she said. “It's going be sad without him here though!”
This article originally appeared on the Grocott’s Mail Online, South Africa’s oldest independent newspaper, on Aug. 24, 2012.