Meder Battles Back After Emergency Surgery and is Primed For Paris

By Karien Jonckheere 

Picture:Anton Geyser/SA Sports Images 

Rebecca Meder’s road to Paris has been something of a roller coaster ride. Four weeks before the SA Olympic trials, the 21-year-old swimmer’s appendix ruptured, leading to emergency surgery and a dramatic change of plans.

With rules dictating she had to compete at the trials to be considered for the SA team, Meder still made her way back to South Africa from her training base in New Zealand and competed in just one race – the 50m backstroke. The event was selected as it doesn’t involve a dive or tumble turn which could have caused problems with the still-healing internal stitches after the surgery.

Fortunately for Meder, she had already achieved an Olympic qualifying time in the 200m individual medley ahead of the competition, so her place on the team was secured once she had fulfilled the requirement of simply showing up. But what followed was a gruelling few months of trying to regain her form.

The SA record-holder said the comeback would not have been possible without the support of her coach, family, boyfriend and strength and conditioning and medical teams – along with a strong faith in God.

“I’ve cried many tears over the phone, I wouldn’t be human if I didn’t cry and if I didn’t have those raw emotions, and you know what, they let me feel the way I’m feeling, they listened, and then we tackled it with logic and with precision and with a goal in mind,” she explained.

“Mentally it was tough. I was frustrated, I was angry and devastated. But at the same time, I was so grateful that I was healthy. An erupted appendix is quite a dangerous thing. I spent a lot of time in prayer, worshipping God and just fixing my mind on His truth … and ultimately filling my mind with positivity and with peace and with comfort and knowing that everything was going to be OK.

“It was very difficult getting back in the pool, it was when the load started picking up, I was a little bit despondent every now and then… but I’m more at peace now knowing that I’m back on track, I’m strong again, I’m fit, fast, and muscle memory has kicked in really quickly.”

With much determination and hard work after what was effectively six weeks away from full training, Meder believes she is now back at her best.

“I’ve been hitting times in training that I’m really happy with, faster times than I have been, and my racing’s been going well, I’ve done one or two local events here in New Zealand and really happy with some of my times and some PBs, short course, which is always obviously encouraging.”

Meder competed at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and while that was important in terms of gaining experience, this time she’s there to compete.

“Last time my goal was to get to Olympics, and now my goal is to perform at Olympics. It’s quite scary to say out loud, but I suppose your dreams are supposed to scare you, and for me making a final at Olympic Games would be huge,” she said.

“The 200IM is going to be one of the most competitive events at Olympic Games… top eight in the world at an event like the Olympics would be massive. And then of course, when you’re in the final, anything can happen.”