Alida van der Merwe, a grade 11 learner at Eunice High School and member of David Abdelmalak’s sport school, has been preparing full steam for the Tokyo Olympic Games next year.
The 17-year-old is an athlete taking part in modern pentathlon, which consists of five sporting disciplines: swimming, running, fencing, horse riding and shooting. She told Bloemfontein Courant that she took part in her first international competition in August 2017 for the U19 Pentathlon World Championships and this started her journey towards the 2018 youth Olympic Games and other major competitions.
Among the many qualifications Van der Merwe possesses, she boasts as number 1 for the U17 fencing rankings for Epee fencing in South Africa for two years in a row. She added that she is preparing for qualification for the 2021 Tokyo Olympics for modern pentathlon, as well as the Junior and Youth World Championships for modern pentathlon in 2021.
Physical training with her coaches was not possible due to the lockdown regulations, therefore, Alida has been training remotely via video calls with her coaches. She said these programmes have, however, been adjusted from the normal programmes.
They were not able to access the facilities they used to train with, like the swimming pool, athletics track and necessary equipment. Therefore, she opted to use her treadmill and pool at home instead. “Since it is winter, I have to now protect myself in these cold times. I started swimming with two old wetsuits and a diver’s face mask, which has been really difficult to do, but will definitely be worth it in the long run,” she said.
Alida has won a number of championships like the Senior African Olympic Trials where she received the silver. She then took part in three Senior World Cup series and could make it into two of the final rounds among the senior athletes. She also took part in a Poland Open competition and received the U19 and Junior category gold medal and silver in the senior category.