In the last of our Olympic Watch segments we speak to one of South Africa's most successful Olympians, Roland Schoeman, about his hopes, dreams and what it takes to impress the girls in his hometown!Schoeman burst onto the international stage in the Athens Olympics four years ago after picking up a gold medal in the 4x100-metres freestyle relay, silver in the 100m freestyle and a bronze in the 50m freestyle. And since Athens, Schoeman has simply gone from strength to strength. At the 2005 LC World Championships in Montreal, Canada he won two gold medals ? in the 50 m butterfly (in a world record time of 22.96s) and freestyle (21.69s the second fastest time in history at the time) ? as well as silver in 100m freestyle. Then in 2006 Schoeman broke the short course world record for 50m freestyle, becoming the first man to swim the distance under 21 seconds, with a time of 20.98 seconds. Schoeman lowered the previous mark by 0.12 seconds. And at the 2007 LC World Championships in Melbourne, Australia he successfully defended his 50m butterfly title. It is small wonder then that the US-based swimmer is hotly tipped for a big medal-haul in Beijing, China. But as far as Schoeman is concerned, he is not letting expectations cloud his mind ahead of the most important sporting event of the year. "I am going into Beijing without any expectations with regards to my performance," Schoeman reveals in an exclusive interview with sports.iafrica.com. "This will be my third Olympics and I am looking forward to going in there and really soaking up the occasion. In 2004 I really wanted to win a medal more than anything else, I put unnecessary pressure on myself and ended up trying too hard in the 50m freestyle. I came away with a bronze medal and was disappointed." "Thinking back on it now, I should never have been disappointed at winning a bronze medal. So I want to go into Beijing relaxed and composed. I would like to swim the best times and hopefully end up on the podium." "I am just looking forward to enjoying the experience. I'm going to take far more time to enjoy the Olympic experience." A late starter Incredibly, despite his success in the pool, Schoeman was a late starter in swimming. He only got actively involved as a teenager. So, what brought about the sudden interest? "Truth of the matter is I actually got into swimming to impress a girl," reveals Schoeman. "She was in high school with me and on the local swim team. I thought if I joined the team I?d be able to show her I was interested in her. To cut a long story short, we ended up dating for a couple of months and she moved away. That was the end of the relationship, but there was something in swimming that I could identify with. "My coach at the time, Gavin Ross sat me down and told me if I dedicated myself 100 percent to my swimming, he believed I could be successful. Back then we just didn?t know how successful that would be." After his heroics in Athens, of course, there is now the added pressure from an expectant public. But Schoeman refuses to be weighed down by the things he cannot control. "There will always be external pressures and external circumstances that I cannot control," he says. "I, however, can control my own expectations and actions, so my primary goal is to go into the games and enjoy it. The times and placings will take care of themselves. I have trained unbelievably hard and have done everything in my power to go to the games and swim fast. Now I need to have faith in my training and my stroke." 'God willing, I will be there in 2012 Training for an Olympic athlete is intense and Schoeman has been spent the past year pushing his body to the limit ? his focus set on Beijing. "Training has been unbelievably intense since last August. A typical weekly schedule consists of three weight room sessions lasting about and hour and a half. I do pilates twice a week for an hour each session. "In addition to that, I have eight swimming sessions per week. Aside from all the hard work I am very fortunate to be able to go in and see a chiropractor a couple times a week as well as a massage therapist. The most critical need when training this hard is the ability to recover." So, how has the training been going we wonder? "I'm really happy with the way in which training has been going," says Schoeman. "I?ve tried a couple of things differently since Olympic trials and I must admit I am pretty happy with the results so far. The important thing is to be able to make it come together at the Games. It's what we spend four years working towards." "God willing I will definitely be there in 2012. "The age for retirement is becoming later and later especially amongst sprinters. The retirement age was typically between 24 to 26, now you are finding sprinters capable of swimming best times well into their 30's and 40's. Dana Torres is a perfect example. She is in her 40's and has just broken the US 50m freestyle record, so as of right now there are no plans in my immediate future to retire," he says. One would imagine that after spending so much time competing at the top, Schoeman would have built up a couple of rivalries on the way, but nothing could be further from the truth he reveals. "I actually get along with most of the swimmers and certainly do not focus my energy on building rivalry situations with a swimmer who happens to be a competitor in the pool," he reveals. But what about Ryk Neethling? Surely there is a local rivalry between the two South Africans? "Again, one has to be cautious about confusing competitor with rival," says Schoeman. "Ryk is in Arizona as are the rest of my fellow South African team-mates, including Lyndon and Darian. We have two Canadian Olympians, a Venezuelan Olympian, a British Olympian, a Brazilian Olympian, a Japanese Olympian? the list goes on. "We have an entire pool filled with amazing talent. Training with all these guys forces you to be at your best at every single workout. It teaches you to race the best on a daily basis." No regrets Despite Schoeman's triumphs in the pool, however, it is Ryk Neethling who tends to make the news in South Africa. It is more often on the society pages, but it is clear that SA seems to shifted its focus towards the less-successful swimmer. But Schoeman remains philosophical. "A key decision for me was: do I 'cash in' and neglect the rigorous demands of training required to be the best? Or do I focus on hanging in there, hoping and praying that corporate South Africa will come to their senses and understand that the requirement that I scale down the extent of my training to be a 'poster boy' will in actual fact kill the golden goose so to speak," he says. The fact that he has been largely ignored by SA makes it even more impressive that in December 2005, Schoeman turned down a R40-million contract to swim for Qatar. At the time he claimed that hearing the South African national anthem and sharing the joy of his victories with his fellow South Africans is what made winning gold so special in the first place. Does he regret the decision now? "I don?t regret turning down the offer ? I do regret that I do not have the money," he laughs.