4232-Hendrik van der Merwe photo

Hendrik van der Merwe



Impairment information

Type of Impairment
Impaired muscle power, Spinal Cord Injuries
Origin of Impairment
S6, SB5, SM6

Further personal information

Centurion, RSA
Athlete, Business Owner, Coach, Motivational Speaker
Afrikaans, English, North Sotho

Sport specific information

When and where did you begin this sport?
He began swimming at school in 2004.
Why this sport?
He started swimming to get out of staying in his hostel at boarding school in Johannesburg, South Africa. "I always messed around in the dam as a kid. The hostel that I was in was very bad. We used to get into fights the whole time. So, I started swimming in the afternoon so I could get out of the hostel. Then I just started picking up like that and it all sort of had a snowball effect. This sport brings so much more than just fitness and good physique. The mental part of it was what intrigues me the most."
Training Regime
His training consists of eight to nine sessions a week, including four-kilometre swim sessions and weight training, as well as sauna sessions six days a week.

International debut

Competing for
South Africa

General interest

Legs [he was given the name by his teamates while competing at the National Schools Championships in Durban, South Africa]. (, 27 Mar 2015)
Working out. (Coach Legs Youtube channel, 30 May 2020)
Memorable sporting achievement
Breaking several South African swimming records as a teenager and competing in a test event in Brazil prior to the 2016 Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro. (Coach Legs Youtube channel, 30 May 2020)
Hero / Idol
US swimmer Michael Phelps. (Athlete, 09 Sep 2019)
Sporting philosophy / motto
"If you stop to throw rocks at every dog that barks at you, then you will never reach your destination." (, 17 Feb 2016)
To compete at the 2020 Paralympic Games in Tokyo. (Coach Legs Youtube channel, 30 May 2020)
He was born with spina bifida. (Athlete, 09 Sep 2019)
Other information
In 2016 he decided to retire from professional swimming to focus on coaching. "I started coaching in 2013. I did coaching and swimming. It was kind of hard to balance but that was why I retired [from swimming in 2016] because I needed to make a living as well." He returned to the pool at the 2019 National Championships in Durban, South Africa, and went on to compete at the 2019 World Series in Glasgow, Scotland. (, 15 Apr 2019;, 13 Apr 2019;, 25 Oct 2018; The F Word Finance YouTube channel, 06 Oct 2017)

He says that fitness has been his lifestyle since age 14. He runs an online fitness and wellbeing franchise, Coach Legs, designs a workout app for smartphones, and is a motivational speaker. "I'm in love with fitness. As a swimming coach, I have to make sure what I want the swimmers to do after represents that as well. I can't be a coach and live an unhealthy lifestyle. Mind, body and nutrition I believe are the three main pillars for living a happy lifestyle." (Facebook page, 04 Nov 2019; FitChef YouTube channel, 22 Aug 2018)

He works as a coach at various primary and high schools in South Africa, and is a club coach at the University of Pretoria. He holds multiple qualifications from the American Swimming Coaches Association. (, 22 Jan 2020;, 22 Feb 2019; LinkedIn profile, 01 Jan 2021;, 01 Jan 2020)

In October 2019 he launched his first book 'Fifteen Life Contributions'. "It's a quick read, telling the story of my journey in my swimming career as well as life and the lessons I have learned along the way." (Facebook page, 08 Oct 2019)


Unit Date Rank
IPC Swimming World Championships Durban 2006 (Durban, South Africa)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Men's 50 m Freestyle S6 Heats 17
Men's 100 m Breaststroke SB5 Heats 8
Men's 100 m Breaststroke SB5 Final Round 8
Men's 100 m Freestyle S6 Heats 16
Men's 400 m Freestyle S6 Heats 13
Men's 4x100 m Medley 34 pts Heats 9
Men's 50 m Butterfly S6 Heats 16
2013 IPC Swimming World Championships (Montreal, Canada)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Men's 100 m Breaststroke SB5 Final 1 2013-08-16 7
Men's 100 m Breaststroke SB5 Heat 2 2013-08-16 6
2015 IPC Swimming World Championships (Glasgow, Great Britain)
Event Medal Unit Date Rank
Men's 100 m Breaststroke SB5 Heat 1 2015-07-14 12
Men's 4x100 m Medley 34pts Heat 1 2015-07-18 9