Olympic swimmers shine

LIHU’E-Renate duPlessis sat quietly on a starting block at the Kaua’i High

School pool while waiting for her next race, seemingly oblivious to the

squealing and splashing all around her of Mokihana Aquatics swimmers during a

break in their meet last Saturday.

But duPlessis knew full well what might

be going through their minds: How could they someday reach the competitive

level of her, an Olympic swimmer?

The way to get there is to work for it,

said duPlessis, who will compete for her native South Africa in the Olympics

next month in Australia.

“Training is hard, but hang in there,” she said

would be her advice to aspiring Olympians. “Nothing worth doing is


For duPlessis, who swam her first race as a first-grader and

Saturday was one of five Olympic qualifiers , training is fun, not work. “I

look forward to it,” she said of her schedule of two workouts a day (except

Wednesdays and Saturdays, when she cuts back to one, and Sundays, her day


The payoff for her is a trip to Sydney, where she’ll compete in the

100-meter butterfly and, she hopes, on her country’s 4×100 individual medley

relay team.

She sees herself maybe reaching the semifinals in the

butterfly but doesn’t expect to win a medal. “It’s such a competitive event,”

she said.

The relay could be a different story, though. “We have a really

good team. We have a chance to finish third” and win a bronze medal, duPlessis


She easily won the 100 butterfly in the Mokihana meet. Joining her in

the meet were fellow Olympians Nick Folker, Leslie Kwok, Simon Trisk and Matt

Kwok. All five are members of the Baywatch Hawai’i club team.

Folker, who

blistered the field in the mens’ 100-meter freestyle, and Trisk are also South

African teammates with duPlessis. Matt Kwok and Leslie Kwok, who are not

related, will compete down under for Hong Kong and Singapore,


A University of Hawai’i freshman, duPlessis hails from Cape

Town, “where the oceans come together,” she said with a smile. She’s studying

exercise physiology and plans to enter medical school.

But first she’ll try

to quench her competitive thirst. She slaked it partially by qualifying for the

Olympics this year after missing by nine-tenths of a second in 1996. The

near-miss made her “more determined to make it this time,” she said.

On her

odometer of accomplishments, earning an Olympic berth is about a tossup with

her victory in the South African nationals in 1997, she said.

She doesn’t

consider herself a national hero, either for that feat or her ticket to Sydney.

She is, she said, just a proud Olympian.

“It’s a real honor,” she



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