At the victory ceremony of men's 200m medley (45-49 age group) on Friday Siphiwe Baleka surprised everyone by proposing to his girlfriend, Chinese Yutong Zhou on the podium.
Siphiwe clinched a silver medal in the race so now he has four silver medals from the 17th FINA World Masters Championships.
Siphiwe and his fiancée, Yutong met only a year ago, because of the distance between their countries. Missouri native Siphiwe has been to China several times, but Yutong is yet to travel to the States.
Not so long ago they decided to get married, so they planned to meet in Budapest at the Masters Championships, and after the event they wanted to fly to the US together. Siphiwe first proposed to Yutong in a text message, but he wanted a more remarkable proposal as well, so he decided to do it on the podium during a ceremony.
„This is my second visit to Budapest as my first World Championships. I came here swimming five events and it was the number one seed in two of my events. So I was really hoping to win something. I’m very close to some world records, I hold some national records in America. So my goal was to win something and break a world record. So far I have four silver medals. I have one best time, so I’m not quite swimming as fast as I wanted, but I’m happy with my time in the 100 breaststroke, it is my best time. Tomorrow I have one more race in the 50 m breaststroke, so we will see if I can win. Yesterday in the 200 m I had an epic meltdown, I turned after the breaststroke with a two body length lead and the wheels came off, I just struggled and I got beaten in the last 25, I couldn’t get out of the pool, they had to carry me out on a stretcher, I went to the med tent so it’s been a lot of drama. A good drama, with the engagement and some not so good drama with the performance.”
Siphiwe told us, he had been planning the proposal for a long time, he wanted to make it special to let Yutong know how much he loved her and wanted the moment to be remembered.
To our question related to their honeymoon destination he replied: „We will probably go to another swimming event!”
Although communication between the two is not too easy, modern technology comes handy. They have been using google translate for four years now. Sometimes there are mistranslations and they don’t understand each other, but at least they can’t argue that much. So far it’s been fun for them. Both of them are busy learning each other’s native languages.
„It clearly shows that if you are in love, you can overcome any kind of obstacles.” – told Siphiwe at the end of the interview.