A little over five months ago, Phillip Seidler (25) took a life-altering decision that culminated in realising his ambition of becoming a two-time Olympian on Sunday.
He is the first Namibian to qualify for the Paris Olympic Games, following his 10km open-water African title triumph at the Aquatic World Championship in Doha.
Seidler completed the gruelling course in 48th place after swimming for one hour, 54 minutes and 04,20 seconds.
Tokyo Olympics silver medallist Kristof Rasovsky (26) of Hungary won the race in 1:48:21,20.
Leading for most of the race, Rasovszky held off a spirited comeback by Frenchman Marc-Antoine Olivier, who was second 2,40 seconds behind.
Great Britain’s Hector Pardoe took bronze at 8,00s behind.
“It was a very technical and tough racing course, competing with the best of the world, all fighting for a spot for Paris 2024,” Seidler posted on Facebook on Tuesday.
He was delighted that his gamble to quit full-time employment in September last year and return to swimming has paid off.
“In life, you will never do a whole lot unless you are brave enough to try,” said Seidler, who retired following the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo.
“There were doubters who questioned my decision to make a comeback, but I stayed true to myself.
“Going into the Doha race, my aim was to take the African Continental qualification position, which means coming first in Africa in the 10km open-water swim race to qualify for the Paris Summer Olympics 2024,” he said.
He drew inspiration from his late mentor and ailing close family friend to whom he dedicated the victory.
“I tried my best with very little training and swam my heart out for everyone who believed in me. I dedicated this race to two people: my mentor in heaven, Shaun Laubscher, who is always on my side and in my heart, and swims and surfs with me.
“The other hero is our family friend, who is currently fighting for her health. She is one of the strongest people I know, and she believes I can,” Seidler said.
“Her strength helped me to give my best, and being the first Namibian who has qualified for the Paris Olympic Games and being crowned the African Champ in the 10km race.”
The World Aquatics Championships in Doha features the highest number of athletes and countries in the event’s history, swimming’s governing body World Aquatics has said.
More than 2 600 athletes from 201 countries are competing across 75 medal events in six aquatic sport codes, with an eye on grabbing qualification spots for the Paris Games.
The championships will continue until 18 February at different venues around the Qatari capital.
“Paris!! Buckle up, because the Seidlers are going to the Olympics for the second time,” Seidler posted.
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