Winning vs. Learning with Olympic Swimmer Roland Schoeman – EP071

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As elite athletes, we are in it to win it every time we compete, and anything less than first place is seen as a loss. But what if we looked at it differently? What if we rejected the idea of ‘winning versus losing’ and instead embraced the idea of ‘winning versus learning’? What if we saw every setback as an opportunity to become the best version of ourselves?




Roland Schoeman is South Africa’s most successful swimmer, winning gold, silver and bronze in the 2004 Olympics. He attended the University of Arizona on scholarship, breaking several NCAA records during his collegiate career. Roland holds multiple records in the 100-meter freestyle, 50-meter freestyle, 100-meter butterfly and 50-meter butterfly events, and he was the first man to swim the 50-meter freestyle in under 21 seconds. Roland was named African Swimmer of the Year by Swimming World in 2004, 2005 and 2006, and he was elected South African Sports Star of the Year in 2004.

Today, Roland discusses the value of his well-rounded athletic background playing a variety of team sports. He speaks to his rejection of the 10,000-hour rule and the pros and cons of his cerebral approach to swimming. Roland shares his challenging experience at the 2016 Olympic trials, the importance of recovery for older athletes, and what he learned in taking a step back from competition this past year. Listen in for Roland’s insight on how Gymnastic Bodies has helped him become a better swimmer and get inspired by his ‘winning versus learning’ philosophy!

Topics Covered

[1:26] Roland’s athletic background

  • Grew up in South Africa playing variety of team sports
  • Committed to swimming at 16 to pursue scholarship
[4:52] Roland’s take on multi-sport athletes

  • Team, individual sports develop self-awareness
  • Don’t believe in 10K-hour rule
  • Value in choosing own route (vs. outside pressure)
[9:03] What makes someone an elite athlete

  • Natural talent (e.g.: Anthony Ervin)
  • Hard work, desire trumps 10K hours
  • Different for every athlete
[11:16] The pros and cons of Roland’s cerebral approach

  • Pedantic, methodical approach bred success
  • Mimicking competitor techniques negated own strengths
[16:00] Roland’s experience at the 2016 Olympic trials

  • Trained with South African coach in Alabama
  • Severe muscular fatigue from overtraining
  • Not enough recovery for older athlete
[20:13] Roland’s insight on elite athletes and recovery

  • Most Olympians limited in recovery tools
  • Education, emphasis improved at university level
  • Eating right and sleeping well are most important
[23:37] Roland’s sleep and nutrition practices

  • Always cognizant of sleep hygiene (WHOOP Strap)
  • High-quality protein, starch and steamed vegies/salad
  • Sufficient water, electrolytes
[27:16] Roland’s time off after the Olympic trials

  • Went to Rio as coach for George Bovell
  • Able to enjoy experience as ‘celebration of ability’
  • Continued training to compete in World Cup series
  • Focus of last year on Gymnastic Bodies training
[31:06] How Gymnastic Bodies has benefitted Roland

  • More flexible, mobile than ever before
  • Improved hip, hamstring and quad mobility
  • Eliminated back pain
  • Plans to compete in 2020 Olympics
[34:07] Roland’s insight on taking a step back from competition

  • Success, transformation is not linear
  • Choose to see circumstances as opportunity
  • Innate competitive desire will never change
[39:07] Roland’s aspirations moving forward

  • Continue working with national teams (starting technique)
  • Reaching out for funding to assist with prep for 2020
[45:07] Roland’s unique take on funding partnerships

  • Cultivate sport as great unifier
  • Contribution in terms of swimming as brand
[47:00] Roland’s advice for high-caliber athletes

  • Only person who determines success/failure is YOU
  • Learn from mistakes and perceived failures

Learn More About Roland

Roland’s Website



Gymnastic Bodies




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