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Up-Close with Adri Visser

Adri Visser, SA Swimming Olympian, motivational speaker, NWU Potch graduate is just such an inspiration in sport and in life. She exudes such joie de vivre, such contagious positivity, and so much faith. Humble in greatness, she has a deep passion for people with disabilities and those facing huge challenges in life. Adri’s life story so beautifully reflects how one person can do so much with so little – Grace indeed!

Adri was born disabled, caused by the fact that her mom contracted German measles while pregnant. Adri is a woman who knows hardship, rejection and pain, all too well, and yet has managed to rise all the way to the top.

For now she has her eyes set on Rio Olympics 2016, with the intention to “retire” from competitive sport after that, but continue her career in Biokinetics. She wants to be involved in patient rehabilitation. “I think that being disabled myself I would be able to help, inspire and motivate them to achieve so much more in their physical lives than what they would have ever thought would be possible, to go beyond their wildest expectations and feel “free” in their bodies and improve their quality of life. “If I could do it, so can you””.


Athlete: Bio / Stats

Name & Surname Adri Ilaine Visser
Nick Name Adri or Nemo
Date of birth 19 Feb 1988
Place of birth Benoni, Gauteng
Current City Potchefstroom
Height Not sure, maybe 1.42 m
Weight 54 kg
Shoe Size 5
Club St’ Andrews Dragons
Coach’s Name Marike van Oort and Theo Verster
Out of Country events/ meets Check my cv attached.
Secondary Sport/ sports I like watching rugby
Favorite City Cape Town
Favorite Song/ type of music Katy Perry Unconditionally Chris Tomlin Sovereign
Favorite Movie Ice Castle and Lying to be perfect.
School & Grade Hoërskool Birchleigh, Class of 2006
Tertiary Inst Name/ Year North-West University Potchefstroom, Graduated 2014
Tertiary degree/ diploma Sport Science Diploma, 2009 to 2011BA Human Movement Science and Psychology, 2012 to 2014
Parents Names, siblings Petro Marais (Mother)53Jolanie Mauer (Sister)31Ilza Visser (Sister)29
Very briefly describe yourself as a person. I see myself as a very positive person whom knows who I am and what I want out of life.  My relationship with God is the center of my existence & the rock in my life.  Every friendship I’m  blessed to have and means so much to me.



You are an Olympian, one of SA’s top swimmers, passionate and doing so well in your ­­­­­­­swimming, tell me a little bit about how you started in swimming and your journey in the swimming arena up to now?

I started swimming in October 2001 when my primary school asked if anyone would be interested in swimming, I didn’t have any sport at that time and felt like trying something new.  I swam my first gala in Germiston a month later and my first SASAPD Nedbank Champs in March 2002.  I really began to love swimming and so it grew into a passion and my dream was born to become a Paralympic swimmer with records behind my name.

What is the highest accolade that you have achieved in swimming and what is your greatest personal accomplishment?

It would definitely be representing my country at the Beijing Paralympic Games 2008 coming 9th in the 100m Breaststroke SB4.  My greatest personal accomplishment would be my 2 Africa Records with 1 Silver and 1 Bronze medal at the Pan Pacific Champs USA last year and this year at the IPC World Champs 2 new Africa Records and a Rio 2016 50m Butterfly MQS Qualifying time.  Academically it would be finishing my BA Degree in Human Movement Science and Psychology last year. 

Do you have any specific regimens or rituals in swimming? Maybe a particular diet / training method that can be partially attributed to your success?

Before I race in any competition I pray that God would give me His strength and let His will be done.  When I’m very nervous before an event I sing gospel songs that calm me down and give me confidence.  I like eating so perhaps before races I will carbo-load with yummie pasta. With training, I try to follow my coach’s programs to the best of my ability and so she will make sure that I taper at the exact right time.

You have travelled outside SA before, what are you highlights of these travels, and what does travelling do for your mindset/ perspective on things?

I think I absolutely love going to the landmarks of each country like The Great Wall of China which makes every country so special.  Having a look at old buildings and places like its roots & cultures.  We are so busy with the swimming that we don’t always have time to explore the countries we get to go to.  I feel so thankful for the opportunity to represent SA internationally so I strive to always give my best by swimming my heart out and embracing every opportunity.  My mindset is focused and very optimistic.

How do you manage to fit in sports and academics and family into your schedule?

I think it’s all about setting priorities which changes with every season, test and competition but it doesn’t matter how hectic things are –making time for friends and family is of utmost importance to me.

Besides your swimming what do you have a passion for?

I love being a motivational speaker, inspiring and uplifting other people’s spirits; life and hearts is what it’s all about.  To get them to stand up in the people God has made them to be, to find that purpose in life, to follow their dreams and reach for the stars.  Have a look at my ambassador section in my cv.  I love being a part of the community.

Would you like to share a little bit more about your faith journey and how it has affected your life / sports?

I believe that everything in life happens for a reason, the good and bad times -happen so that God can mould and shape you into the strong & amazing person whom you are meant to be.  How can you help someone and show sympathy when you yourself haven’t experienced anything like it or similar in your own life?  Having faith in the unknown future is so valuable, believing that God only has great plans in my life (Jeremiah 29:11) and gives me strength to do all thing (Phill. 4:13) is what drives me.  My comfort is that by His Grace I am saved, He will never leave nor forsake me.  I’m His beloved daughter.

What do you do to relax?

I’m a series girl, like watching different series like: the mentalist, grey’s anatomy, vampire diaries, suits, arrow, the flash, game of thrones and once upon a time.

Which athlete/ athletes inspire you?

Natalie du Toit


What is your personal favourite motivational quote?

Always Have Faith!!!

What is your favourite Bible / Scripture quote?

I can do all things through Him who gives me strength. Phill.4:13

What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given?

“Adri, jy is ‘n fantastiese persoon.  Moet nooit verander om by enige iemand in te pas nie”.

Living away from home / travelling extensively is a sacrifice, in this situation, what does it feel like?  What grounds you and what becomes your touchstone to remind you that the sacrifice is worth it?

Yes things can be extensive sometimes, but I choose not to see things as a sacrifice because I get to do what I love every day.  By living every day to the fullest is what’s really important; keeping my faith and eyes upon my dreams is what drives me.

What is your biggest challenge, and what do you do to manage this challenge?

It’s true that I have a big physical disability and that is a bit shocking to people I come into contact with that doesn’t really know me, they tend to feel sorry for me or underestimate my capabilities but I can just imagine their thoughts –so I strive to show them just what I can do and prove them wrong.  I’m a social person who will stand up for myself and won’t say no to a challenge.

When an athlete hits some “hard / difficult patch in their sports career, what goes through your mind at that time? What advice can you give other young athletes in this regard?

Yes, the road to success or reaching your dreams comes with a lot of hard work, difficult times with some disappointments.  But in those times it’s important to remember all the great times too.  I qualified and had great times for the London 2012 Paralympics but unfortunately I wasn’t chosen to represent S.A.  It was one of the hardest times in my life, I couldn’t get into the pool without crying and felt broken and worthless.  Looking back finds me thankful because that’s where my relationship with God became so much stronger and my identity of being just Adri was what I needed to explore without swimming.  Swimming doesn’t define me; it’s just a small thing of who I am.  God healed my heart and so my love & passion for swimming sparked again, helping me to swim and compete again.  I’m stronger than ever, swimming personal best times and now I pursue other thing that’s of value to me so much more than before.  It’s not about how hard you fall but rather how fast you stand up.  Never ever back down!!!!!!

When you’ve had a tough / bad day, what lifts you up again?

Hanging out with friends and talking to God about it.

I’m sure you have many things going on right now, what’s to be expected next from you?

As you will see my next goal will be the competing in Rio 2016 but more importantly is being accepted in the Honours Program in Biokinetics at the university. 


Adri on You Tube:

Thank you so much for taking this interview. We would like to wish you all the best for your journey ahead. We look forward to following you as you go from strength to strength. Blessings!

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