Twins Alard and Alaric Basson have been the mainstay of the Madibaz Swimming Club since enrolling at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth in 2016.

In a sport where time is their greatest adversary, Nelson Mandela University swimming twins Alaric and Alard Basson are on a constant quest for milliseconds.

“Practically speaking, I’m about a body-length behind the guys who are making the finals,” Alaric, who specialises in the butterfly, compares his efforts to the top swimmers at this year’s Fina World Championships in South Korea.

“I feel I’m not far off and I think it is possible to get to that level,” said the 23-year-old from Uitenhage, who in June became the first student-athlete from the varsity to represent South Africa at the highest level.

He is under no illusion that the key to the door into the finals – and perhaps beyond – lies in hard work and meticulous analysis under the direction of coach and SA swimming legend Mark Edge.

Managing studies and drag

Not uncommon for (identical) twins where similarities often extend beyond the physical, they are both post-graduate construction management students and as a unit have been the mainstay of the Madibaz Sport Swimming Club over the past four years.

Most recently, they excelled at the University Sport South Africa gala where Alaric was named best male swimmer and Alard, who has also earned national colours, filled third spot.

With both having competed internationally, Alaric says their focus is now on improving “the little things that can make you better” in a sport that is as much about technique as brute power.

“You still have to put in the hours but at this stage you look back at each race and evaluate what you have been doing wrong or what you can tweak,” he says.

“It’s about fine-tuning your stroke and minimising drag to shave milliseconds off.”

The Pacman plan

They received sound advice from their father about the mental challenges associated with being a top-level competitor and today it is paying dividends – in fractions of seconds.

“He likened it to the computer game Pacman,” says Alaric, “where you have to concentrate on the first test before progressing to the next level.

“Our dad said it wasn’t about who could improve the fastest, but who could keep on improving.

“As you get older you realise the importance of the technical side and we have always gauged ourselves to assess what improvements have been made every year.”

Twins Alard and Alaric Basson have been the mainstay of the Madibaz Swimming Club since enrolling at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth in 2016.

Twins Alard and Alaric Basson have been the mainstay of the Madibaz Swimming Club since enrolling at Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth in 2016. Photo: Full Stop Communications

Not love at first sight

While swimming is now a way of life, Alard admits it took time to fully commit.

“There was a time in junior school when we didn’t want to swim as we were enjoying all the other sports,” he recalls, “but my father saw our potential and suggested we continue and make a decision later.

“We did, but we also enjoyed rugby until injuries started affecting our time in the pool. We decided to focus on swimming when we were 16, but it wasn’t easy at first.

“There were a lot of social sacrifices that had to be made, but we knew what needed to be done.”

The more they were exposed to the opportunities within top-level swimming, the more it strengthened their resolve.

In the wake of a rivalry

And naturally, as with many siblings, there was rivalry early on.

“It was hectic,” recalls Alard, who has since transitioned into a superb breaststroker.

“Everything was a competition. I remember I was nervous to race him and he was nervous to race me.

“In those days we swam all the strokes, so every race was a battle. As we grew older, we developed our specialty events and that was probably a good move to avoid unhealthy competition.”

Nowadays, having each other as training partners pushes them along on their respective paths to excellence – one millisecond at a time.

FACT BOX

Tale of the twins

In more ways than one, making waves has become a way of life for Nelson Mandela University’s Basson twins. These are some of the achievements that they have left in their wake:

Alard

• Eastern Province record-holder in 100m and 200m butterfly

• Represented South Africa at the 2016 Fina World Short Course Championships

• Best achievement: silver in the 100m butterfly at 2019 African Games

• Twice a finalist for Eastern Cape Sportsman of the Year

• Bronze in best male swimmer category at 2019 Ussa gala

Alaric

• Eastern Province record-holder in breaststroke events in all distances

• African Games 200m breaststroke record-holder

• Ussa 100m breaststroke record-holder

• Represented South Africa at 2019 Fina World Championships in South Korea

• Best achievement: double gold at 2019 African Games in Morocco

• Nelson Mandela University Sportsman of the Year in 2016

• Gold in best male swimmer category at 2019 Ussa gala

*Statistics as at September 30, 2019