A man living a life of goodness
He believes in the controversial quote made by American figure skater Scott Hamilton that “the only disability in life is a bad attitude”.
Physical limitations and handicaps may slow you down, but if you are determined enough, you can overcome these challenges with a positive mental attitude. Even the most capable person can be stifled by a negative attitude, preventing them from achieving success or happiness.
Welcome to the world of Valentino (Waterboy) Henry Vergotine, a man living a life of goodness.
He is a trustworthy person. He is logical and accountable. He always keeps his word, always does what he says, and always follows through on his promises.
People have a lot of trust in him. He is pleasant and helpful. He is humble and respectful. Rather than condemnation and rage, he prefers logic. He keeps his cool in stressful situations and does not overreact to adversity or provocations.
I’m truly honoured to share a few thoughts about this remarkable young man. I hope you enjoy it.
On Thursday 30 July 1987, a car bomb was detonated outside the headquarters of Witwatersrand Command army base in Quartz Street, Johannesburg. The attack was executed by Heinrich Grosskopf, under the instructions of the African National Congress (ANC). 68 innocent people injured and 1 fatality.
However, in Cape Town, on the same day, it was 15 degrees, windy but sunny where a special person was born. His name, Valentino Henry Vergotine.
Where does the nickname "Waterboy" come from?
And no, he does not work on the sidelines at sports events to provide water for athletes. Valentino has been crazy about water from small. Being it in a pool, river or ocean. Hence the nickname ‘Waterboy‘ he was given in his early school years.
When he sees or hears the calming sounds of running water, his brain responds by releasing a torrent of neurochemicals that boost blood flow to the brain and heart, causing relaxation.
That’s why he’s constantly in a good mood!
A brief look at the first 10 years of his swimming career.
Being the youngest of 2 children, (he has an older sister Chaine) Valentino, started swimming in 1997 at age 10. In 2001 he made the WPA team and things started progressing quick. In 2005 he made the SA team for swimmers with special needs. This was his first international competition held in September 2005 in the Czech-Republic.
In 2007 things started happening. Valentino broke the SA record in the 200-meter long course breaststroke event. In the same year, representing South Africa at the 2007 Special Olympics World Summer Games in China, he won 2 gold and a silver medal.
In 2008 he participated in the Open European World championships held in Poland. Team SA came 3rd overall. Valentino swam 2 personal best times while his relay team came 4th and they broke the African and SA Record.
In July 2009, he represented South Africa in the Global Games for the Intellectually Impaired that was held in the Czech Republic. Valentino was part of the men’s relay team that set two new SA records, in the 4x100m medley relay and 4x100m freestyle relay events.
Behind every successful child is a parent. Her name is Felicity Vergotine.
Success is defined by the attributes displayed in the pursuit of happiness, not by talent or choice of profession or stream.
What successful traits did Valentino pick up from his mother by merely watching and observing?
I have asked Valentino the following questions on a few occasions: Who is/was your mentor? Who is/are the people that made an impact on your life that you will never forget? You can see the excitement in his eyes and hear the conviction in his voice when he answers; My mother!
I can understand why. His mom instilled quality traits in him. I want to mention a few that I have personally experienced getting to know Valentino. Hard work, commitment and dedication, honesty and integrity, patience, respect and humility, faith, self-discipline, a competitive spirit and resilience.
‘My mom is my number one, my everything‘
Why is Valentino classified as an S14 swimmer?
Because he has the same problem as Albert Einstein who’s theory of relativity transformed our knowledge of space, time, gravity, and the universe. Einstein described his handicap as follows; “Words or language, as they are written or spoken, do not seem to play any role in my mechanism of thought,” he wrote to mathematician Jacques Hadamard in 1945. Read more
Einstein never learned to swim. Valentino won medals at the special Olympics!!
Valentino attended mainstream schooling until he was about 10 years old, but due to his reading and writing handicap, attended Bet-el School of skills in Kuils River where he completed his school career.
He is currently busy with various online courses to enhance his education in sport coaching and also plan to complete an SSA accredited learn to swim course and thereafter the level 1 coaching course as he wants to plough back his swimming experience through coaching.
2011 was a great year
In April 2010 he participated in the Telkom SA Swimming Senior National Championships at the King’s Park Aquatic Centre in Durban trying to qualify for the Commonwealth Games in New Delhi.
2011 was a great year for Valentino where he broke 2 Africa records. The first at senior SA champs where he set a record time in the 400IM long course and shortly afterwards another record time in the 400IM short course.
Striking gold in 2011.
South Africa won a total of 71 medals at the 2011 Special Olympics World Summer Games in Athens, including 38 gold, 20 silver, and 13 bronze.
Similarly, the swimmers won nine medals, with Valentino Vergotine, a previous Special Olympics gold medalist, winning two more golds in the 100m and 400m.
“ It was a long and arduous process. Six days a week, four hours a day of training were required. I am quite pleased with my accomplishments. He remarked, My family was supportive, and I made new friends.”
2012 – disaster. Leading up to SA champs in Durban (which was also part of qualifying for the Olympics games in London) Valentino swam 2 open water events of 3 and 5km each using it as a ‘warm-up’ preparing for champs. At champs, he swam 10 events and made a few finals. Shortly after he finished his last event, he could hardly walk.
The pain was so bad that he could not take his seat on the plane on the way back to Cape Town. He was placed on a stretcher in the aisle of the plane.
After arriving in Cape Town, he was taken to hospital immediately and underwent an operation on his back where they found that 2 of his lower back vertebrae was damaged so badly that they had to put 4 screws in his back. Valentino’s body was broken.
Valentino recovered and continued winning medals (he lost count of the number of medals he has won in his career) as usual taking part in events all over. He is also a huge open water swimming enthusiast and enters whenever he can.
Due to unforeseen circumstances, his swim club had to close down in 2018. For months he was forced to train by himself, with no coach and no teammates. In November 2019, I heard about his predicament.
I immediately contacted him to join Aquawolf swim club. He made an impact with his positive approach as soon as he stepped onto the pool deck at Planet Fitness, Plattekloof. Valentino was back in business.
His first meet with Aquawolf was the WC long course champs in Malmesbury in December 2019. As usual, he bagged gold and silver, but the highlight of the meet was when Valentino was part of Aquawolf able-bodied swimmers relay team in the open 200m free.
The team members were Justin Kraatz (28) Matthew Atkinson (14) Tiago Rodrigues (14) and Valentino Vergotine (33).
Grandma Annie Ruiters
As I was about to make this post public, I got the message that Grandma Annie Ruiters passed away. May her soul rest in peace. Our sincerest condolences to Valentino and his family. Saturday 26 June 2021
Grandma Annie Ruiters is 85 years old. 3 times a week Valentino takes his gran to N1 city hospital. Up early in the morning to get grandma there between 05h00 – 06h00.
Grandma Annie kidneys only function at 15% or less therefore she needs dialysis treatment. The procedure takes approximately 4 hours.
She is normally very exhausted after treatment and medical experts recommend some sort of activity to help curb cardiovascular conditions. At that age, it’s extremely difficult.
But with a saint-like Valentino at his grandma’s side, who can ask for better
In January 2021, Planet Fitness closed the pool for swimming due to Covid-19. Championships, Olympic trials were looming.
Nothing could stop Valentino. Bought himself a porta pool, some resistance bands and started practising in his garden.
And his swimming hero is?
Adam George Peaty, (born 28 December 1994) is a British competitive swimmer who specialises in the breaststroke. He has represented Great Britain at the Olympic Games, World Championships and European Championships, and England in the Commonwealth Games.
He won the gold medal in the 100 metre breaststroke at the 2016 Olympics, the first by a male British swimmer in 24 years. He is the current holder of the world record in 50 metre and 100 metre breaststroke events.
‘ I would like to meet him one day’ say’s Valentino
Covid-19 and Aquawolf swim club
Due to covid, our facility at Planet Fitness was closed. For weeks our swimmers could only use the gym to do dryland exercises, except for Valentino that had the great advantage of training in a 2 x4 outdoor porta pool. 😜
Thankfully, we were able to start training in a 50M outdoor pool, a stunning venue in Goodwood. Although we only had limited training time, we grabbed this golden opportunity.
Circumstances changed and by the end of March, we were allowed back into our wonderful facility at Planet Fitness, Plattekloof. Our swimmers did great at level championships and Valentino went from strength to strength.
Ending a tough Covid-19 swim season on a high – After training for weeks in a 50M outdoor pool, we were back in a covered 25M heated pool. It was time to work on Valentino’s speed to get him ready for WC South African National Championships that was being held in middle April 2021 in Stellenbosch.
We changed our training program to Ultra Short Race Pace Training (USRPT), which means that in training, you only swim at your goal race pace or faster, in practice.
Under the guiding hand of coach Gary Bonney, Valentino swam some of his best times at Champs in years winning 2 gold and 8 silver medals.
Where to from here? Valentino still has dreams to swim in world-class tournaments, especially the special Olympics World Summer Games. In the meantime, he is totally committed to fulfilling his leadership role at Aquawolf swim club and concentrating on his online studies.
With the way Valentino keeps giving unselfishly, I can only hope and pray that he will always experience true happiness in his life. He deserves it!
Good luck Waterboy. May all your dreams come true.
On Saturday, 29 May 2021, Valentino was appointed captain of Aquawolf swim club. He leads by example and is an inspiration to our younger swimmers. Read more about our club.
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