Swimming & Diving: Olympic hopeful gets fresh start, adjusts to her new life in Ohio
When being asked about the number of her South African national team appearances, Bianca Hauzer had to think for a long time.
“I swam in Ireland, then at the FINA in Durban, then at Berlin,” she mumbled before taking another long pause, holding up three fingers to indicate her appearances.
“It was about eight to nine,” said Hauzer, finally coming to a conclusion and explaining how she traveled with South Africa’s Olympic swimmers through Europe to compete last summer.
Hauzer told astonishing stories about meetings in Berlin, Barcelona and Monte Carlo, and she is about to start another one here in Athens.
In Hauzer, Ohio coach Greg Werner has recruited one of the greatest swimming talents South Africa has to offer right now.
“She actually contacted us,” Werner said. “And she probably contacted another 30 universities.”
By exchanging several emails and Skyping with her every other week, Werner was able to make the difference compared to other universities around the nation.
“Greg was really willing to recruit me,” Hauzer said.
She needed a change. For years Hauzer, who started swimming at the age of three, wasn’t facing any competition in her club team, nor in the nation. In the 2011-2012 season, Hauzer topped the South African rankings for girls 18 years and younger in every single distance between 200-meter freestyle and 1500-meter freestyle.
“Here at Ohio everybody swims about the same times I swim,” she said.
It was clear that if she wanted to reach the next level, she needed to leave her familiar surroundings.
It wasn’t until Dec. 28 that Hauzer arrived in Athens. It was the first day back for all swimmers on campus after taking leave for Christmas break. The transition wasn’t easy for her. Almost half of the season was already over for the Bobcats, and the individual swimmers and divers had grown together as a team and all swimmers were competing for relay spots.
“Anytime you have someone join the team mid-season is difficult,” Werner said, comparing the situation to a student joining a class mid-semester.
Still, Werner didn’t want her to sit out for the rest of the year because they were in a serious need of another distance swimmer because junior Laurin Williams was the only one on the roster.
“We talked about Bianca in several team meetings,” Werner said. “Her name was on her locker from day one, so everybody knew she was coming.”
But being integrated into the team was only one of the issues Hauzer was confronted with. After having had three full months of final testing at her high school in South Africa, which caused her to take a break from practicing normally, Hauzer was facing a winter break training that made her swim 17,000 to 18,000 yards a day.
“I wasn’t really prepared for that kind of work,” Hauzer said, adding that she didn’t really know what she was getting herself into. “With my family not being there it was really hard, but all swimmers feel kind of homesick and I talked it out with them.”
Now that the semester has started, Hauzer feels more settled, but there is still a lot for her to get used to.
Coming from pools in which meters were the dominant unit, Hauzer is trying to make the switch to yard distances – which doesn’t always go smoothly. In her first meet against Denison, she started to do her flip turns a few inches too early.
“We addressed those technical issues,” Werner said. “She is progressing.”
The progress could be seen last week as Hauzer won her first competition as a Bobcat, winning the 1000-yard with a time of 10:22.51 minutes — a time not even Williams has swam this year yet. Williams was 23rd at the NCAA championships last year, so how far will Hauzer be able to go?
Werner said he hasn’t talked to her about any individual goals yet.
“But wherever she goes, I am not going to stand her in the way,” Werner said, knowing that his newest addition has a chance at competing at the Olympics in 2016.
Hauzer is aware of the possibility too.
“If my training goes well, who knows?” she said and smiled.