Time to right the wrongs

2009-03-17 14:36
Sport24 columnist Roland Schoeman (File)
Roland Schoeman

In 2004 the South African relay team did what no other small swimming nation had ever done before. Swimming powerhouse Australia had dethroned the USA in 2000, but with the meagre resources and limited talent we had, we beat the entire world and came away with an Olympic Gold medal and world record. 

The entire build up to the Olympics had been a challenge. Swimming South Africa (SSA) didn't in fact want to send a relay team at all. It was only after sports scientist Kim Swanwick flew to the US to test us that he decided Lyndon (Ferns) would be a valuable asset to the team and we would be foolish not to send a relay team. Swimming South Africa at that point decided to send a relay, but remained sceptical about our possibilities.

After the Games in 2004 the South African swim team came away from the Olympics more successful than we had ever been. We had the ideal platform on which to build and promote swimming in this country. The world was our oyster. As soon as we won those medals SSA should have immediately put a strategic plan in place for the development and promotion of swimming. We needed to be in every magazine, on every television and at every corporate event. We had the chance to get sponsors on board that would’ve supported us and helped our journey to the Olympics in 2008.

So once again I ask myself, why are we worse off now than we were before the 2004 Olympics?

As far as I am concerned it boils down to management. After we failed to perform in 2008 there should have been a complete restructuring within SSA. There wasn’t. There was however a Commission of Inquiry launched into alleged allegations, racism and mistreatment of athletes. Recommendations were made in the Inquiry, but we are yet to see all these recommendations take effect.

I’m willing to sit down in open discussion with Swimming South Africa and to help pave a way forward for the swimmers in South Africa.

Among other things, a swimmers union needs to be formed that will bring back the rights to the swimmers. We also need a member of this swimmers union to be on the SSA executive. This way the swimmers will have a direct voice and vote. Why don’t we approach a university professor and ask if he’ll have his class do some strategic planning and develop a comprehensive plan for the promotion, improvement and development of swimming.

It isn’t too late to make the necessary changes. We want to represent our country to the best of our abilities, we want to be able to work hand in hand with SSA so that at the end of the day we can all be successful and that swimming will continue to grow and improve. I’m pleased to say that SASCOC and Gideon Sam are going about things the right way. Gideon has personally put his name on the line to ensure that medals are won in 2012. We need this same attitude within our federation.

I believe we can still work together. It isn’t too late for that. I’m willing to work hand in hand with Swimming South Africa. The ball is now in their court.

Roland is a multiple Olympic medal winner... and an avid Blue Bulls supporter.

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.


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