Documentary pays tribute to former star swimmer

MARK WARD

Former national Ironman, Trevor Petersen’s life story, like so many who grew up in townships such as Bonteheuwel, where the apartheid regime dumped victims of its forced removals, has been challenging, but despite the hardships he never veered from his dream to teach others to swim.

Flashback…Trevor Petersen representing South Africa. Picture: Supplied

Former national Ironman, Trevor Petersen’s life story, like so many who grew up in townships such as Bonteheuwel, where the apartheid regime dumped victims of its forced removals, has been challenging, but despite the hardships he never veered from his dream to teach others to swim.

In a documentary, highlighting the 59-year-old’s life journey titled Against the Tide, Petersen reveals how he learnt to swim with the help of community-driven individuals such as Cecil Whiteman who used the few resources at hand to teach him and many others to swim at Bonteheuwel swimming pool.

Nearly five decades later, Petersen, with the assistance of his wife Wonita, recently opened the Meadowridge Swim School to fulfil his lifelong dream to teach others to swim.

The documentary, produced by his daughter Dayna, tells the story of how he literally and figuratively swam against the tide throughout his life. It follows in the footsteps of Kurt Ordeson’s short documentary titled Breathe Again, which was released in 2012 and pays homage to another former swimmer from Bonteheuwel, Derick Orderson, who swam an Olympic qualifying time for the 50m freestyle event in the 80s, but could not compete at the world’s greatest Games due to the then political situation in the country.

Documentary film-maker Dayna Petersen who produced the documentary about her father Trevor, titled Against the Tide. Picture: Mark Ward

The 70-year-old Whiteman was present to cut the ribbon at the unveiling of Petersen’s dream-school.

“There are so many anecdotes but from Bonteheuwel to Meadowridge is indeed a big step. But if you understand where he comes from, then you will know why I’m saying tonight’s event is a big step for him,” said Whiteman.

“Just to think he and his teammates used to travel by bus and train to participate in swim galas. It’s indeed a great moment for all of us sharing in his dream and vision,” said Whiteman.

Despite those turbulent times of early morning and late afternoon dives and strokes, in the Bonteheuwel swimming pool, Petersen went on to represent the South African Council on Sport in water-polo and swimming events.

He went on to participate in the 1994 World lifesaving championship. He then represented South Africa at the 1997 World Triathlon championships in Western Australia as well as at the 1998 event in Lausanne, Switzerland.

Daughter Dayna said it’s a story that had to be told. “I am proud of what my father has achieved and what an inspiration he’s been for all of us. There are so many inspirational stories such as my father’s which should be told,” she said.

From left are, Wonita Petersen, Trevor Petersen and Cecil Whitman, during the unveiling of the Meadowridge Swim School. Picture: Mark Ward

She adds while her father grew up in the concrete-laden streets of Bonteheuwel, he overcame many challenges and the documentary tells the story of how he obtained his matric certificate at the age of 30 and went on to achieve academic excellence with a Bachelor’s degree in Human Movement Science BA (HMS), with distinction in 2000 from the University of the Western Cape.

Petersen said: “This is my dream come true and a story that had to be told and I hope and pray it will be a story to inspire many others, young and old, to never give up on a dream.”

You can watch Against the Tide on YouTube. To watch the full film visit https://youtu.be/qo_c1Os2NaU?si=cmPPGfT5di4wZCV-