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Up-Close with Nic Molyneux

Nic Molyneux, top SA Water Polo player describes himself as “Energetic and positive. Competitive but sportsmanship and humility is paramount”. Nic is a wonderful team player having had his roots in the swimming arena,  but ultimately chose Water Polo.

Nic is definitely a champion of steel, resolved to make a difference and to excel as part of Team SA. This despite a huge setback and lot of time away from his game incurred by a terrible car accident that left him turning away from death’s door and which required multiple operations to “put him back together again”. But you cannot keep a good man down, and here he is, healed, restored, refreshed and hungry for his Water Polo! In fact the team is just back from FINA World Champs in Kazan, where they had all heads turning in their direction when they played brilliantly as a team and made Water Polo history in SA!

Nic has such a sense of pride for the game of Water Polo and cherishes the honour of representing our beautiful Nation. This flows over into his community involvement as he helps with training and mentoring our Precious Youth. He is a man with a deeply grateful heart for each moment of being alive and for the “second chance” in life that he has been given after the car accident.



Athlete: Bio / Stats

Name& Surname Nicholas-Jon Molyneux (prefer just Nic, it’s easier 😉
Nick Name Moly / Seal
Date of birth 23 June 1986
Place of birth Cape Town
Current City Cape Town
Height 185cm
Weight 90kg
Shoe Size 11
Club SACS Old Boys
Coach’s Name National side Paul Martin
Out of Country events/ meets FINA World Championships 2011, 2013, 2015 EU 8 Nations Cup 2015Commonwealth Water Polo Championships 2014 FINA World League Super Finals 2010FINA World League African Qualification tournament 2010
Secondary Sport/ sports Swimming, some Rugby in school
Favorite City Cape Town and Rome
Favorite Song/ type of music Imagine Dragons, Coldplay, OneRepublic
Favorite Movie Action/Adventure movies
School & Grade Wynberg Boys’ High School, Matric 2004
Tertiary Inst Name/ Year Cape Peninsula University of Technology / Current
Tertiary degree/ diploma Qualified with B-Tech: Sports ManagementCurrently studying M-Tech: Sports Management
Twitter and Instagram, Facebook Facebook – nicmoly11
Parents Names, siblings/ spouse David Molyneux (father)Diana Molyneux (mother)Michael Molyneux (brother)
Very briefly describe yourself as a person. Energetic and positive.  Competitive nature but sportsmanship and humility are paramount to me.



Q:  You are a Water Polo enthusiast, one of SA’s top players, passionate and doing so well in your Water Polo tell me a little bit about how you started and your journey in the WP arena up to now?

A: My brother is 8 years older than me and started playing high school polo at 16, when I was 8…  I used to go down to watch his matches with my parents on the weekend and I used to jump in the pool with him and his mates after the game to throw the ball around – I never looked back from there, I was hooked on the enjoyment I experienced of playing with friends rather than swimming up and down in a confined lane.  From a young age I was a good swimmer, representing WP schools in the junior age groups until high school when I stopped swimming competitively and took my water polo more seriously.

At 13 years old I made the WP u14 water polo team in 1999. In 2000 I was picked for the SA Schools u14 team which put the fire inside me to push this sport all the way and my dream became to play for South Africa one day.  At 17 I represented the SA u20 side for a 6 nations tournament in Poland.

In November 2005 when I was 19 I had a really bad car accident with my best friend.  My car aquaplaned on a corner and we skidded across the road and into a tree.  My best friend broke his collar bone, had severe lacerations to his face and forehead and fractured his forehead too.  I broke my left arm and jaw, dislocated my right wrist and smashed my teeth and face on the steering wheel.  Later, while I was trapped in the car my heart went into shock for 90 seconds, thankfully the paramedics at the scene stabilised me in time.  Fortunately we both made full recoveries!!  It took 4 surgeries, 2 plates, 12 screws, a whole lot of wires and in total 8 hours of surgery to put me back together.  I swam, practiced and even played a match with my right hand in a plastic cast for a month.  One week after my right wrist finally came out of its last cast (after 3 surgeries) I finished the Fish Hoek Mile in 17th place.  I was absolutely determined to reach my goal of playing for SA and 4 years later I made my debut for SA in 2010.

I have had the privilege of representing SA in 39 test matches over the last 5 years.  FINA World League Super Finals, Commonwealth Water Polo Championships, EU 8 Nations Cup and 3 FINA World Champs in 2011, 2013 and 2015.

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

A:  There are a couple things that spring to mind and it’s tough to separate them because of what they mean to me.  Initially, just to represent SA on the world stage was my greatest personal achievement.

However, because we’re an amateur side I never would have expected to experience the next two:  Winning the EU Nations Cup earlier this year was the greatest win I had experienced in my life.  To top that we finished 12th at the 16th FINA World Championships in Kazan Russia.  This is the best result an SA mens team has ever achieved at World Champs and I’m incredibly proud to have been part of this team.

Q:  You have traveled outside SA before, in fact, just back from FINA World Champs in Kazan, what are your highlights of these travels, and what does travelling do for your mindset/ perspective on things?

A:  I’ve mostly traveled for sport, very rarely have I actually had a “holiday” overseas with family…  Highlights are definitely playing against some of the world’s best players.  The friendships and memories I’ve made with my team mates will last me a lifetime too.  Travelling with a team is just an entirely different experience to travelling on your own, so many different personalities and interactions!  The mischief and banter we get up to on tour is priceless, I wouldn’t trade it for anything 🙂

Travelling the world and seeing so many different places and cultures has allowed me see how fortunate I have been and also how much I love South Africa!!  I don’t think I could live anywhere else but Cape Town.


Q:  You are also involved in coaching, how is that going for you?

A:  I work for Wynberg Boys’ High School as the water polo “pro” so to speak.  I help the coaches to develop training programmes and at times I also jump in the water to demonstrate the exercises for the kids to mimic and learn from watching and following my actions 🙂  I really enjoy giving back to my old school where I can and also seeing some of the kids develop and take in what we’re teaching them.


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

A:  Diet??  Normally I’m too hungry to even bother with that… hahaha I start my day the same though – a bowl of FutureLife and a Berroca.  Other than that I generally eat a lot of peanut butter and normally avoid junk food like chocolates, fizzy cooldrinks and fast food.

Training wise I try to keep my warm-up exactly the same before both practice and a match.  The duration differs but the initial stretch and swim is important for me to set the tone for myself and prepare mentally – when my body feels good my mind follows 🙂  As the saying goes, “Practice how you play”.  Mental prep is critical and athletes need to learn when to switch on and switch off.  It’s impossible to be in “game mode” for an hour before a match, it’s important not to psych yourself up too much for too long, more often than not you’ll stress yourself out before the game even starts and then the nerves are almost uncontrollable.  By the time we reach a tournament all the physical work has been done, there’s nothing more I can do in that sense – being mentally prepared is something I work on all the time.

The day before a big game I’ll start thinking about what I need to focus on in the game, who is dangerous in the opposition, what we need to do on defense and attack, etc.  Once I’m done with that I’ll switch my mind off from the game until our team talk on game day, then I’ll switch off again until we warm up.  When I’m switched off I joke around with my team mates, play games, listen to music, etc. to take my mind away from the game and relax.


Q:  How do you manage to fit in both sports and academics / job/ family into your schedule?

A:  It’s tough, lots of sacrifices and lots of early morning trainings!


Q:  Beside your water polo what do you have a passion for?

A:  I’ve always loved nature and visiting national parks.  Our family holidays have always been to parks in Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe or the national parks here in SA.  When I was a kid I wanted to be a game ranger when I grew up 🙂 hahaha

Travelling has also become a passion, it’s a result of all the trips I’ve been on so far 🙂  I just love exploring new cities and experiencing different cultures, this world of ours is an amazing place!

Q:  What do you do to relax?

A:  A braai with my mates on the weekend is my favourite way to relax and unwind.  Other than that, watching sport, series, movies and playing video games from the comfort of my couch is also great 😉

Q:  Which athlete/ athletes inspire you?

Malcolm Pringle – South African Paralympic athlete with multiple gold medals.  At 18 years old he competed in his 1st Paralympic games in Atlanta, 1996.  He won gold in the men’s 800m T37 category and went on to win this event in the next 2 consecutive Paralympic Games.

Roger Federer, no description needed here.

Duncan Woods – Previous SA Men’s water polo captain.

My brother, Michael Molyneux was also a big role model for me growing up.  Not as a sportsman but as someone to look up to who overcame a major car accident as well, he was hit by a speeding car when he was 17.  He taught me to fight through the worst things in life which came in handy when I had my accident.


Q:  What is your personal favourite motivational quote?

A:  Malcolm Pringle once said to me, “What’s your excuse?”  If you know of Malcolm and what he has been through then this question will make sense 🙂 his question often played over and over in my mind when I was tired and felt like giving up or slacking off in practice.

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

A:  All my coaches, “Don’t lob”…  I’m still working on this one 😉 hahahaha

The best advice I received was if I wanted to be better than my opponent I had to put in more effort than them.  Train when they train and train when they’re not training.


Q:  You lived in Italy for a while, Living away from home / travelling extensively is a sacrifice, in this situation, what does it feel like? / what grounds you – what becomes your touchstone to remind you that the sacrifice is worth it?

A:  Living in Italy and playing professional water polo was absolutely incredible and in terms of how it affected my life, it was the greatest experience ever!  At the time I was going through a difficult period of my life where it felt like nothing was working.  So getting away from everything in Cape Town and having such a massive change in my life was the best thing for me and the timing could not have been better.

Everything was a challenge initially because hardly anyone spoke English.  I had to learn Italian from scratch as quickly as possible not only for daily living but most importantly for the team and playing the game in a foreign language.

Being away from my family and friends was difficult but with Skype and Facebook the world is so much smaller and my family was just a video screen away every weekend 🙂 so that really helped me to settle down while I was away from home.

When these kinds of opportunities arise you have to grab them with both hands!!  I would never trade my time in Italy for anything, it had a huge impact on me personally and on my water polo.

What grounds me?  Well I have a few scars that I see every day in the mirror, they remind me of the ordeal I’ve been through and that at any moment everything can be taken away.  I try to appreciate everything so much now, I was seconds away from a light at the end of the tunnel!  My parents have sacrificed so much to get me where I am today!  All the early mornings driving me to practices, their love and support they’ve given me when I’ve hit lows to bring me back up again, I wouldn’t be here without everything my parents have done for me and there is no way I’ll ever be able to repay them but knowing I’ve made them proud of what I’ve accomplished is massive for me and that’s how I know it was all worth it.


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

A:  I suppose my size is probably my biggest challenge…  Hahaha in polo circles being 185cm and just 90 kg’s doesn’t count for much…  I end up playing against guys who are the size of Schalk Burger, around 2m tall and roughly 110kgs.  To counter this I try to be faster than them, I use my swimming as an advantage.

Q:  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?

A:  I suppose the main thing is, are you enjoying yourself?  There a number of factors that might influence this and you need to evaluate it for yourself, no one else can get inside your head, you have to figure it for yourself.  It might be the coach, the team, the type of training, where you are training, etc.  Any one of these elements can influence how much you enjoy your sport – most of us are amateurs anyway and you’re paying for what you love to do, so you may as well get the most out of it and enjoy yourself!!

The other thing I guess is, do you have a goal?  And if so you have to think SMART about it:  That is, Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-Bound – think about these key points when determining your goals and set yourself milestones to eventually reach your goal.  Re-evaluate your goals too, they’re not set in stone – perhaps the time frame is too short so adjust it to suit you.


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

A:  Mostly I’ll talk to my folks when I’m feeling down or had a bad day, my closest friends are also a great source of distraction after a long week and we sit back and chat around a braai.  Sometimes a calm word from my coach is also what I need to get me back on track.  I try to have a short term memory when it comes to tough times though, the quicker I can forget about it the better I can move on, it’s hard though because I wear my heart on my sleeve and it’s easy to see when I’m frustrated or struggling with something.

Advice, learn the lesson from a mistake and try prevent it from happening again.   This is just another aspect of mental preparation and toughness, you can’t change the past so don’t stress about what you can’t change, rather put that energy into what you can do next.


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

A:  The next big thing is to finish my Masters in Sports Management and then take on the world of corporate governance in sports federations in South Africa… 🙂 I am hopeful that I can make a difference for the next generation of aspiring athletes.

In the pool I guess I just have to keep my head down and keep working on my craft!  This last tournament in Kazan was my personal best so far, but there’s always room for improvement so I’ll be working harder on those elements of my game.

The next EU Nations Cup tournament is in Malta next year and SA is the defending champion, making that team is my next sporting priority!  Lots of young guns coming up and I’m not getting any younger, so staying fit and sharp is going to be key if I want to keep my spot.



Thank you so much Nic 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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