“My name is Sizwe Lawrence Ndlovu and I’m a fighter. Throughout my life, I have triumphed in the face of adversity. My nickname, Seize, is born of the fact that I’m driven and determined, and seize every opportunity that comes my way.
I was born in the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital in the south of Johannesburg on 24 September 1980. I spent my formative years in Volksrust and Newcastle, where after I relocated to Johannesburg to attend high school in Mondeor.
I developed a passion for rowing in 1997 while I was at Mondeor High. I was encouraged by my headmaster, Tom Price, to take the sport up after I left the water polo team. When I began, I was one of only four black pupils in a predominantly white sport. By the end of the season I was the only one.
The rowing bug well and truly bit me. I fell in love. In 1998 I was sent to Amsterdam with the junior national squad as part of transformation in the sport. In 1999 I made the Junior National Team, and we came ninth. In 2000 we won the World Student Championships and the Commonwealth Championship.
In 2001 I was in the U23 team, where we came seventh at the U23 World Championships. In 2002 we came second at the U23 World championships. In 2005 we came seventh in the Senior World Championships in Japan. I came ninth in the singles at Senior Worlds in Poland in 2009. By 2010 we’d come 11th in the Senior Worlds Championships in New Zealand.
But getting there wasn’t easy. Nothing worth achieving ever is. From the time I was 15, I was encouraged to train before and after school. Training was day in and day out, broken into three sessions for a total of six hours a day. I had one day off every four weeks, or two weeks off a year. Those two weeks involved our own training and all our times had to be submitted.
We had three to four camps a year locally. In summer we’d camp in Lesotho for three weeks and in winter we’d camp near Tzaneen dam, where we had to dodge hippos to get our times.
I had been awarded a bursary to RAU (now known as the University of Johannesburg). It did not last long because rowing wasn’t – and still isn’t – a high-performance sport at the university. I had to stop my studies and start working to chase my Olympic dream. I faced a chronic lack of funding. I lost my father in 2007. I lost my mother in 2008. I was diagnosed with asthma. I missed my first shot at the Olympics, in 2004 in Athens. I was ill in 2007 and I once again missed the Olympics in Beijing in 2008. I have been injured, had operations and been in rehab. But finally, after 14 years of hard work, our team reached our Olympic dream and won gold in London 2012.
And now I have a new dream. I will be running the 2018 Comrades Marathon. I’m an athlete. I relish a challenge. I enjoy the fight. I won’t just find a way – I will make a way.
I want to do it for my hero, Tom Price. For my wife. For my baby boy, Lizwelethu. But mostly I want to do it for me – for the disadvantaged, underfunded child I once was who, like so many others, have had to fight against all odds to make his dream come true.”