Chad Ho (Getty Images)
Cape Town - Chad Ho has finally headed back to South Africa, back on terra firma and had time to take a deep breath and reflect on the next step of his road to Rio.
The Durban dasher made the final Olympic 10km marathon cut for Rio in Setubal, Portugal on Sunday when he ended in the top nine places as Rio qualification criteria specified.
Technically he had placed 11th, but with duplicate swimmers from Australia and Germany ahead of him he was promoted to ninth. Setubal on Sunday showed him that the cut-throat world of open-water swimming gets no easier.
"The race on Sunday was hard and I really feel as though open water swimming has changed in terms of how the race is done," he told Road to Rio 2016.
"It’s no longer about who has the best finish and that last bit of energy required to take out a few swimmers in the last kilometre or so, it’s about who can last the longest at the front, who can keep up the pace and finish off just as well as they have started it.
"It’s much faster paced now and not preserving energy for the finish. The last 200m of the race I had to really dig deep, I had to fight with everything inside of me just to get me across that finish line in a good position!"
Although others may have been concerned when he ‘only’ came in 11th, Ho says he stayed calm.
"When I finished in 11th, it didn’t really occur to me that I had 'missed' the qualifying because I knew there was still an opportunity for duplicates per country coming in before me.
"Once I found out that there were two duplicates I was a bit relieved but wanted to get proper confirmation beforehand. Placing ninth at the end of it all was definitely not what I was aiming for and much closer than I would have preferred, but all I can do is thank my lucky stars I made it and use the race as a learning experience."
Ho and coach Alisdair Hatfield now know what they have to work on and where any weaknesses need to be improved on the final stretch to Rio.
"That is what we will be doing, working on my speed endurance rather than just my endurance for example," said Ho.
"The hard work has not even begun, now is when it all gets real and the proper work kicks in," said the 25-year-old swimmer. "It’s going to be a tough road but I feel that much closer to my dream of making it to this Olympics and overall I’m extremely happy I have done it. I am very grateful to the support I have from my family, friends, fans and most of all my girlfriend, Cassandra Wright.
"I am positive with all their constant support I will take Rio by storm!"
Cedric Finch, one of the coaches with the South African contingent added his input to Ho’s achievement.
"Chad had a great race," said Finch. "Both him and Troy have battle scars to proof how had it is to make it to the Olympic Games. Chad’s grit got him that qualifying. He was always in the race, was well positioned at all times and here it was the experience that saved his bacon.
"His positioning was all because of the experience over the years of competition. He knew what it meant to 'fail', here like four years ago. He even made that count and in his mind he was never Not going to qualify. Chad had a great swim and deserves to be in Rio.
"Troy took out Chad here four years ago so it was roles reversed this time." chirped Finch.