With South African sport fans celebrating the Olympic bronze medal won by triathlete Henri Schoeman, light has been shone on the combined efforts of a team of Prime Human Performance Institute’s medical experts that played a pivotal role in ensuring the Elite Athlete Development Programme member’s podium performance in Rio de Janeiro.
Having poured much blood, sweat and tears into his build-up to the global sporting spectacle, Schoeman’s Olympic dream hung precariously in the balance just days before the clash after he was struck down by illness.
A common cold turned into a chest infection in the days preceding his all-important Brazilian assignment threatened to undo all the hard work the 24 year-old Durban North athlete had put in during training.
“For as long as I can remember it has been my dream and goal to be an Olympic medallist and I went into the Olympics with my training being at a near-perfect level,” explains Schoeman. “I was feeling good and confident.”
“When I started feeling the cold/chest infection on the Sunday before my race I remained positive because I was sure that I had more than enough time to recover.
“However, when it got to Wednesday, the day before the race, I was feeling at my worst and I became quite emotional as I could feel my lifelong dream of being an Olympian slip away,” reflects Schoeman.
Cue the intervention of Prime HPI specialist and Team South Africa team doctor, Dr. Kevin Subban.
“I worked very closely with Dr. Subban, who advised me that going for chest and sinus x-rays as well as having my white blood cell count taken would be the best way to go.
“The test results came back in my favour and Dr. Subban gave me the go-ahead to race.
“I felt a lot more at ease and positive knowing I would be able to start the race and push myself during it without the risk of doing any long term damage to my body or career.”
Having been restored to full fitness, Schoeman took full of advantage of the work he had put in with Performance Specialist, Davor Šavija at Prime Human Performance Institute at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium prior to the Games by finishing third behind British brothers, Alistair and Jonny Brownlee.
“Davor has worked with some of the best athletes in the world, including some top Kenyan runners, and we are exceptionally lucky to have someone of his expertise in the country,” says Prime HPI Director, Dennis Jackson.
“Since being based in Durban from the beginning of the year, Davor has been instrumental in in working with Henri over the past six months,” he adds.
Under Šavija’s guidance, Schoeman added to global event’s curious trend of the use of unconventional conditioning techniques.
In a similar vein to American swimmer Michael Phelps’ use of ‘cupping’ and Japanese sprinter Chisato Fukushima’s ‘mid-race acupuncture therapy’, Schoeman made extensive use of Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) in training.”
“Miha Bodytec is an innovative EMS development which allows for training of all major muscle groups while being individually challenged,” explains Šavija.
“By application of selective, individually controllable training stimulus, the deeper muscle groups are activated and strengthened, which is difficult or impossible to achieve with conventional training.
“Some of recognized benefits being increased speed through better intra/inter muscular coordination, enhanced endurance due to increased number of mitochondria per muscle fibre, hypertrophy – with increased lean muscle mass, especially in male population – and improved metabolism and recovery.”
Schoeman first incorporated EMS into his regime after sustaining a running-impacting injury and after seeing the benefits first hand, soon added it to his weekly conditioning programme as well.
“Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) was introduced to my training programme earlier this year due to an injury I sustained that prevented me from being able to run fast and then, over time, we also used EMS to work on stability and strength,” explains Schoeman.
“I simply started getting stronger, more efficient and I also felt that my running started to improve, together with my confidence and belief that a podium in Rio was something that actually could and would happen!” he adds.
The four year Olympic cycle in the build-up to Rio saw Schoeman benefit from cycling and running coaching by his father, Joe Schoeman, swimming coaching by Alistair Hatfield and, in recent months, work done on his injuries by Prime HPI’s team of experts, especially Dr. Subban and physiotherapist Ashleigh Hansen.
“Simply, Henri is a wonderful person and athlete – dedicated, focused and a joy to work with,” says Šavija.
“Opportunity and preparation met in Rio for Henri, and it was beautiful!
“His preparation truly was a collaborative effort, building on over a decade of work done by Henri and his core team, and we are so proud of what he managed to achieve.”