This marks (no pun intended) the first in a series of interviews I’ve conducted with friends around our beautiful city, the country and even a few internationally, who have reached a level of success that most of us aspire to.

To kick of this series,  I’ve got some answers from Mark Randall, a friend of mine who grew up in the same town as me (East London) and who now swims professionally, and was a name we heard regularly in the recent Commonwealth Games.  I trust this interview will give you a little insight in realizing that successful people don’t just become successful overnight, but work hard to achieve their goals.

1. Who is Mark? Tell me a bit about yourself?

Well I am 25 years old, I am from East London, I grew up there all of my life, I went to Selborne College, I am currently pursuing my master’s degree in sports management at the University of Alabama in the United States where I have been for the last 6 years or so. At this current moment I am preparing for the FINA World Championships that take place in Shanghai China at the end of July which is a stepping stone for reaching my ultimate sports goal of competing at the 2012 Olympics in London.

2. Tell us a bit about your childhood?

Well as I said I was born and raised in East London and went to Selborne Primary and Selborne College. I suppose you could say I had a typical childhood up until I found out that I really enjoyed swimming and discovered that I was good at it, that’s when I got pretty serious about swimming and concentrated all my energy on my swimming. The sacrifices I made have definitely been worth it, and I would not change a thing. Other than that, we went on family holidays and were always together for big holidays like Christmas and Easter, being over in the US and being there for those holidays has been hard and I miss that family time the most.

3. What is it that you do, that would cause people to consider you successful?

Well at this stage of my life I am still pursuing my sporting goal of competing at the Olympic Games, it has been my dream ever since I began swimming when was 11 yrs old, so I guess you could say that is my career at this stage of my life, although I am not getting paid to do it!! I have been very fortunate through my career as I have experienced some success. I have been fortunate to represent my country and travel to many different countries and my swimming enabled me to get an athletic scholarship to study in the USA. Swimming has always been a great passion for me and I have never ever done it for the fame or the glory.

4. What lead to you deciding this was what you loved to do?

Well from a young age I really loved the water and my mother was swimmer and she tried to get me involved in the sport at a young age, the funny thing is I hated the sport when I was younger, it was only when I was about 11 that I went down to my local club where they had just hired a new coach. He really made the sport fun for me and I fell in love with the sport. I suppose it also helped that I started doing well right away. I also enjoy the challenge of pushing yourself everyday to improve yourself in some area of the sport, whether it be a best time or learning something technical, I really have learned a lot about the sport and myself through the years.

5. What are some of your career highlights?

4 time national champion in the 400 meter freestyle
Multiple medalist at South African Senior National Championships
2 x Gold medalist at the Commonwealth Youth Games in 2004
Commonwealth Games 2006 and 2010
FINA World Championships 2005 and 2011
Numerous Age Group Records
Multiple Junior National Champion
Sportsman of the year 2002, 2003 and 2004 at Selborne College

6. What are three of the most important values in your life?

Trust, balance and cheerfulness

7. What are three absolutes for you – three things you will not compromise on?

My Religion and relationship with God and Jesus
And my all of the values that my family have taught me

8. For the purpose of this ‘success’ journey that I am on, and the interviews that I’m doing with successful people, I’m working on a definition that “Successful people have found what they love to do, are doing it well, and are inspiring others to do it as well”. Do you agree? And if not, what is YOUR working definition of success?

I tend to agree with that definition; obviously people do what they do because they all have their own goals and ideas. To me success is doing what you love and setting goals for yourself and working hard to achieve them. It doesn’t matter what that goal maybe or in what area of life it is, everybody likes achieve at something no matter what it may be. Inspiring people along the way is always a good thing, if I can help anyone achieve their goals in any small way I am always happy to help out.

9. Who are some of the people that have contributed to your success in life?

Number one I have to acknowledge God for giving me talent and also being fortunate enough to come into contact with great people. I have also been fortunate enough to have made really great friendships during my swimming career. First of all I have to acknowledge my first swimming coach who got me started (Andrew Gray), my current coach Sonja Porter who has helped me learn a lot about the sport by helping me figure things out on my own, to me that is the best way to

learn. My family has always been there for me and has supported me through the good times and the bad. The last person is my father who passed away 3 years ago, I learned more from him in the last couple of weeks that he was alive than I could ever imagine. He was battling cancer and his whole attitude through it was just amazing, he was so calm and didn’t complain about anything, I really admired that about him, there were many other things he taught me but that stands out the most, such a strong person, he was the glue that held our family together.

10. What is the best bit of advice you believe you could share with someone who wants to follow a similar path to the one you have chosen?

All I can say is that there will be good times and bad, that’s a given. I experienced a slump in my swimming results, but I refocused myself and got back to work and I am now on track to achieving my goals. So all it comes down to is hard work and how much you really want something, if you want it bad enough you have to work your butt off if you want it. I know everybody says that, but it’s the absolute truth, period.

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