Dubai: Jason Dunford and Chad Le Clos have something in common besides their pursuit of excellence in swimming. Both want to do well and win at the highest level each time they enter any competition. The reason for both is also same: they want to make a statement on behalf of their beloved Africa.
"Far too long Africa has been considered a dark continent by the world. But I beg to differ. We are here to make a statement and the best platform for us to do so will be at the London Olympic Games next year," Kenya's Dunford says.
Though predominantly a butterfly and freestyle swimmer, Dunford has won gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, Universiade, All-Africa Games and African Championships while also reaching the finals at the Olympics, World Championships and Short Course World Championships making his achievements unprecedented in the history of Kenyan swimming. "For me, swimming is living my dream, not just for myself but for my country and for Africa. I always wanted to be a professional athlete and now I am doing exactly that. It is such a huge privilege being out there on behalf of Kenya and Africa," he says.
Terrence Parkin won silver in the 200 metres breaststroke for South Africa at the 2000 Sydney Olympics, while four years later in Athens, Roland Schoeman led the South African quartet to gold in the 4x100 freestyle relay.
"And when I go to London 2012, my main aim will be to just continue promoting Kenya. We are having big problems right now with these high-profile abductions in the country. And these are really hurting us. We do rely a lot on tourism for our economy and I hope that whatever small contribution I can make in this regard will be more than welcome. The Olympics next year will be a good stage to be out there and promote Kenya and Africa."
South African Le Clos is a firm believer that anything is possible, provided there is a goal and the ability to pursue this goal. "Both Jason [Dunford] and I believe that anything is possible. Africa is not exactly the biggest swimming nations, but we have just proven that we are both champions, be it at the world championships or the Commonwealth Games. Promoting Africa is something that I have thought about all the time. It is always at the back of my mind. America has 100 world champions and in comparison we are a tiny nation, but that does not stop us from aspiring in being among the best as we have the potential to do well at the highest level," Le Clos says.
"I believe we can do it. I am already involved in a lot of programmes that will help further this cause and I give a lot of speeches and talks and get involved in community programmes to promote swimming wherever I can. I do this all the time at the schools. Things don't happen all of a sudden. You have to work for it, and after ten years I am happy to say that I have arrived on behalf of Africa. I haven't reached where I want to be, there is still a lot of hard work still left. But for sure I am somewhere there at the top. I am not a big shot, I haven't made it yet. Next year [in London] I will show that I can do it,
"People only hear negative things about Africa. It's time to change that. Kenya is known as a nation of distance running and to get swimming in there would be a great effort. We need to get more recognition for Kenya and Africa. And it helps that I am white as well — one cannot deny the racial factor there. I think it's just great to show that we have that sort of diversity in Kenya. I get incredible support from everyone back home and it would be awesome to have both of us make a statement on behalf of swimming and Africa," Dunford adds.