While still at school, Michéle represented South Africa at the Junior Canoe Sprint World Championships in Japan in 1995, and Finland in 1997. She also won a bronze medal in the surfski race at the Surf Life Saving World Champs in Durban in 1996.
After matriculating in 1997, she studied a BA Human Movement Science degree at the University of Stellenbosch, and then a BSc (Hons) Biokinetics at the University of Zululand. In 2003 she opened a biokinetics practice in Plettenberg Bay but closed it in 2006 to train full time for the 2008 Olympic Games, basing herself out of Cape Town. From then on she raced professionally until 2013, mainly in surfski and river paddling.
She represented South Africa at many Canoe Sprint World Champs, medalling at the Canoe Marathon World Champs in 2007, and placing in the top four for a number of them. She also made the South African Olympic Team, and was a finalist in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.
Locally, she has won the Fish River Canoe Marathon, the Berg River Marathon, and a number of National River Championships, and is the current ICF SurfSki World Champion.
Since 2013 she has been working for USA Canoe/Kayak, the national governing body for Olympic paddle sports in the US, as their High Performance Director, based in Oklahoma City.
“I’ve had a fantastic paddling career,” says Michéle, “and definitely got to realise the dream of being an athlete for a living. Now I get to help other people achieve their dreams. My current job is pushing me in totally new ways, and I’m enjoying the challenge. I think I am still on the path to my dreams, as we live in such a crazy and wonderful world, and I truly believe we are in control of our own destiny, and are responsible for making that journey as fun as possible!
Michéle is thoroughly enjoying living in Oklahoma City, a city “risen from the ashes. The city has invested millions in building a phenomenal 100 km bike path, an Olympic and Paralympic training site for rowing, canoe and kayak competitions, and a whitewater slalom course. This has all been achieved through a penny tax!”
Michéle believes that Oakhill provided excellent training for the independent lifestyle she has led. “Having more choice at a young age helped me see all my options. I still remember some of the teachers and lessons that made an impact on me.”
She believes Oakhill’s location in Knysna is also hugely beneficial. “Knysna offers so much in terms of outdoor activities,” she says. “My parents gave me the option of staying local for high school, and I am eternally grateful to them for that. We live in such an amazing area!
“I last visited Oakhill before I moved to the US, and all the new development was looking amazing! I think the current and future kids have a lot to look forward to. It’s a mecca for producing Olympic talent, and I hope I get to be involved in the future somehow.”