Swimming South Africa has not announced its full team for the 2023 World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, but one name was confirmed on Wednesday: 42-year-old Roland Schoeman.
This photo was from my first ever world championships. It was held in Fukuoka in 2001 & I won bronze in the 50m Freestyle.
Today I was notified that I’ve been included in this years world champs also to be held in Fukuoka. 22 years later I’m going to be racing in Fukuoka again. pic.twitter.com/dtY1YcxP96
— Roland Schoeman (@Rolandschoeman) May 24, 2023
Schoeman will likely be the oldest competitor in swimming at the World Championships, and is almost assuredly going to be the only competitor who won a medal the last time the meet was held in Fukuoka in 2001.
Those 2001 World Championships were Schoeman’s breakout international meet and where he won his first major medal: a bronze in the men’s 50 free, tying with Japan’s Tomohiro Yamanoi.
Schoeman is a three-time Olympic medalist, winning gold in 2004 in the 400 free relay, silver in the individual 100 free, and bronze in the 50 free. He also has three World Championships: one in the 50 free and two in the 50 fly.
His most recent international podiums came in 2010, but Schoeman has continued to race into his 40s. That run was interrupted when FINA gave him a one year suspension for a positive doping test in 2020 – which he blamed on a tainted supplement but was unable to provide an evidentiary sample for.
Schoeman, who lives in Arizona, United States, began his return to racing formally last October in yards, eventually building his way to a pair of top two finishes at the South American National Senior Championships in April. He won the 50 fly in 23.82 and was 2nd in the 50 free in 22.89 – matching the FINA “B” cut exactly. Pieter Coetze won that race in 22.30.
His best time in the 50 free since coming back is a 22.82 leading off a relay at the South American Championships.
While Schoeman is likely to be the oldest at this summer’s World Championships, 42-year-olds aren’t unheard of in the sprint events: Brazilian Nicholas Santos became the oldest swimmer ever to win a World Championship last year, in his last race, when he won the 50 fly.
Schoeman was born on July 3, 1980, meaning he will be 43 by the time the World Championships kick off.
The 2023 World Aquatics Championships run from July 14-July 30, 2023 in Fukuoka, Japan. The swimming competition runs from July 23-30.