Christine Kalmer – full-time job & Olympic qualification
01 January 1970
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Brad Brown: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live and we continue our look ahead to the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. We’re joined now by soon to be Olympian, she’s part of the team. She’ll be attending her first one in Rio. It’s a great pleasure to welcome onto the show today, Christine Kalmer. Christine, welcome onto Old Mutual Live, thanks for your time today.
Christine Kalmer: Thanks a lot for having me.
BB: Christine, how are you feeling ahead of your first Olympic Games? As an athlete representing your country at an Olympics is incredible and you’ve been selected, you’re going, it must be pretty exciting.
CK: Yes, it’s very exciting, it’s been a dream for so long. So it’s actually still, I’m still trying for it to sink in. It’s still a bit surreal, but I’m very excited.
BB: You’re not the first Olympian in your family, your sister René has been before. It must be a bit better-sweet for you, René hasn’t qualified, so you’re going on your own. It would have been nice to make that trip across to South America with her. But you almost know what to expect, don’t you?
CK: Yes, it’s great to have somebody to tell me, okay, do this, expect this. With it being the Olympics, just championship races are always much different than normal races. Which it would probably be a bit tactical the start and then the second half I expect then just to blast the pace.
Full-time job – no sweat
BB: Christine, I’m amazed by you and I’ve chatted to you many times over the years and you’ve always, I don’t want to say you’ve played your ability down. But you’ve always deflected the spotlight onto René. You’ve got a career, you’re a civil engineer by profession.
I almost get the sense that this time around you’ve decided, you know what, I want to give this a bash and I want to do it for me. I want to see how far I can go. I hate to say it but we’re not getting any younger, is that what the thinking behind this sort of drive to get to the Olympics has been?
CK: It’s every athlete’s dream to go to the Olympics. Having a full-time job, it’s like, before I give up on this dream, let’s really go for it this year or this past four years.
BB: How proud of you of yourself that you’ve managed to achieve this with working a full-time gig? Let’s be honest, a lot of professional athletes struggle to qualifying times and get selected. But you’ve done this with everything that you’ve got on your plate.
CK: Yes, it’s been a real surprise and it’s working, that works for me. Having a job and running on the side. I think it’s quite stressful when you’re a professional athlete. That’s all you focus on the whole day, every single day.
It sounds glamorous, but it’s when things start going wrong, like you don’t have anything else to keep your mind off stuff. For me, running, it’s really just like an extended hobby almost. I really just do it for the enjoyment and I’m lucky that it’s paid off now.
A strong group who fought it out
BB: Let’s talk about your qualify and there’s been some real strides in South African women’s running over the last few seasons. You ran a 2:33:43 in Valencia. If you look at the amount of runners that ran qualifying standards, the competition is pretty stiff for those three spots.
CK: Yes, it’s exciting for the sport, I think we’ve had 6-7 girls that has actually run the qualifying time, so that’s very exciting. Unfortunately for us, that has qualified, it’s been quite a stressful few months. Because every time somebody runs, you just sit there and hope that they don’t run faster than you and possibly take your spot in the team.
BB: I never actually thought of that, it’s quite an interesting dynamic. There’s various reasons why women’s running has been on the up in South Africa over the last few years. I think one of the things, and driving factors that’s contributed to lots of competition is the Spar Ladies Series. What that’s done for running in South Africa, having a competitive series over that distance has really helped.
CK: Definitely and I just want to say thank you to Spar. Because it is, there’s always, seeing it’s spread across the year, the races, there’s always something to work for. With all the money they put in, it has upped the stakes. I almost feel sorry for the guys, that they don’t have the same opportunities that the women do in South Africa.
Loving the professionalism of KPMG
BB: It’s doing incredible things and I hope that we do see a 10km series, like you say, for men and women. Just the more of those competitive races we have with decent prize purses, I think is good for the sport. Let’s talk about your club, KPMG.
They’ve come into the South African road running scene, fairly recently, they’ve thrown some money behind, particularly the ladies side of things. It’s, again, good to see big corporate sponsors coming in and putting their money where their mouth is and really helping grow the sport.
CK: I just love being part of the KPMG team and like even though it’s still a young club, they haven’t stepped back to anybody else. They just said ‘let’s do it’ and they approached me. They’re like Christine, what do you need, how can we help you reach your goals. They’ve just really been so professional and it’s very exciting to see such big corporates coming to the stage.
BB: Absolutely. Let’s talk about your final preparation and run in to Rio 2016, from here to race day. How are you preparing yourself, what have you got planned? Have you got any other races coming up or is it a case of, you know what, you’re staying out of the limelight? You just want to get the training done and then you’ll worry about the big one which is in Rio?
Rio 2016 preparations
CK: With Rio being humid and warm, a lot of people get excited about it. We need to start training in humidity tanks or whatever you call it. It’s like, yes, you can do all of that. But basically, my goal is to get to the line healthy and fit. I’m just going to do what’s worked for me previously, before Valencia. Just going to try and get to the line healthy and fit and take it from there.
BB: As far as the route goes in Rio, I believe it’s a four lapper, a 4 x 10km lap route, do you know much about it? Is it flat, is it hilly, what are you expecting?
CK: Honestly, I haven’t really Googled yet, I heard rumours that it’s actually a 5km route. But if you say it’s a 10km route, that’s great news. I should probably start looking into that.
BB: I was going to say, don’t believe me, I’m not the one going to Rio! How do you approach a race like this from a mind-set perspective Christine? Let’s be honest, for you, this is a once in a lifetime opportunity. Do you go there with expectations of running a particular time? Yes, you want to do yourself and your country proud, but is it a case of, you know what, I’m getting to run in a marathon at the Olympics. I’m going to go and soak all of this up.
CK: Yes, I think with the Olympics, it’s easy to psyche yourself out and get carried away with all of the excitement and everything else going on. I think it’s just, keep focused and just focus on the stuff you can control. Just do everything that you’ve done because that works. Just stick to the plan.
BB: Having seen what René’s experience at an Olympics before and having spoken to her, what are you looking forward to most about going to these Olympics?
CK: I just think that standing on that starting line, this is what I’ve dreamt of since I was six years old, when Elana won her Silver Medal at the Barcelona Olympics. It’s like, this is what I’ve worked for so long. All those early mornings and everything I had to give up, I think that’s where it’s going to sink in, like it was worth it.
BB: Christine, best of luck in the final run in to Rio 2016, if we don’t chat before then, safe travels. We look forward to seeing you on that start line and crossing the finish line in your South African gear. I think it’s an amazing experience, I don’t know what that must feel like, but I’m sure it’s incredible and I’m sure you’re going to have an amazing time in Rio.
CK: Thanks a lot, I really appreciate all the support.