PRG Water Polo player in Prague. Lonwabo Mfikili has been selected for the South African u20 men’s water polo team to compete at the world championship in Prague, Czech Republic. The u20 SA water polo team beat Kazakhstan on Tuesday 31 August. PRG coach Vaugn Marlow – who himself just returned from the Olympics ‘21 (where he was included in the men’s Olympic Programme as assistant coach) – joined Lonwabo in the interview below to answer some questions about Paul Roos water polo and Lonwabo’s special water polo journey to date.
In conversation with coach Vaugn Marlow:
When did you meet and start working with Lonwabo as a coach?
Lonwabo was in his grade 8 year in 2017, when I met him at our pre-season water polo camp, before school started in January.
Share your observations on his growth as water polo player since that day:
It was in fact my coaching colleague Mr. Rull Csaba from Hungary that noticed Lonwabo’s potential as a goalkeeper. He lacked fundamental skills having never played the sport before but his instincts in terms of where the ball was going, and his anticipation thereof were excellent. We then took about teaching him all the basics and he has grown from strength to strength ever since. He has represented South Africa at u15 and now u20 level and it is my belief that he can go on and represent the national men’s side if he continues to work hard.
How does his success reflect on PRG water polo and your aspirations for this sport at the school?
When Lonwabo was selected for the u20 team it was a great reflection on our school programme. It illustrates that there is a pathway at Paul Roos to achieve national success. His selection is proof that it can be done and hopefully paves the way for more students to strive to achieve these accolades.
As a travelling sportsman yourself, what would your advice be to a young player kickstarting his professional international career?
For any young player, either travelling internationally or just competing for his/her local high school, my advice would be the same. Continue to work hard. Find the joy in your sport and continue to learn every day.
In conversation with young water polo player Lonwabo Mfikili:
Congratulations on this wonderful opportunity.
What is the most exciting aspect of being invited to participate as part of the u20 SA team at the World Championships?
I am super excited to be playing polo again. As we know, these past two years haven’t been the easiest but an opportunity like this allows me to play the sport I love once again. I’m super excited to be playing my first international game and to see how we as a nation measure up against traditional water polo-playing countries.
Where did your love for water polo start and what are your aspirations in this regard?
I stumbled upon the sport purely by accident and by some or other miracle Mr. Marlow bravely made the decision to select me for the school’s u14A side. I was horrible to say the least, but enjoyed the thought of playing in an A-side in such a big school. I only truly fell in love with the sport towards the end of my Grade 8 year and only then did things slowly start picking up for me. My goals are like anyone else’s who plays the sport – representing my country at the highest level.
What lessons have you learned from your coach and fellow players at PRG?
As cliché as it might sound, I learned that consistency puts one miles ahead of the rest. My coaches and teammates held me accountable, and I did the same for them. This alone helped me to continue training even when it was far from ideal. It taught me discipline and helped me understand that one can only be the best if you never stop working, not even for a second.
Knowing that you are heading to Prague… what is something you look forward to experiencing in this beautiful city?
Honestly, I think I’m looking forward to the polo more than anything else. I am keen to travel the Czech Republic and make some unforgettable memories with my mates.
What advice would you give young aspiring water polo players who dream of competing at international level?
Listen and learn. I think remembering these two things will really help anyone unlock a new side to them. When it comes to polo specifically, there are very few coaches who really know what the sport is about in our country. It is key to actively listen and understand what they’re teaching you. Stay at it, work hard and most importantly enjoy the beautiful game. There is no doubt that you will be successful in your water polo journey.
We look forward to following Lonwabo’s progress, not only in Prague, but in the future.