SA eye best ever medal haul
Cameron van der Burgh (AFP)
Johannesburg - In theory, South Africa could return from the Fina Swimming World Championships in Barcelona with its best medal haul yet.
Swimming South Africa (SSA) head coach Graham Hill believed most of the medals would come from non-Olympic events, such as the 50m breaststroke, butterfly and backstroke.
"We have taken the 50 metre specialists along. Roland Schoeman is the man on the 50s and Gerhard Zandberg is also a 50m specialist," Hill said ahead of the start of the championships on Sunday.
South Africa's best performance was at the 2005 edition in Montreal, Canada where the team bagged five medals.
Hill said he expected last year's Olympic gold medallists, Cameron van der Burgh and Chad le Clos, to produce the silverware in the Olympic-distance events.
The team was looking at a possible nine medals in Barcelona, with Zandberg (50m backstroke), Schoeman (50m freestyle and butterfly), Le Clos (50m, 100m and 200m butterfly), Van der Burgh (50m and 100m breaststroke) and Giulio Zorzi (50m breaststroke) carrying the country's hopes.
"Zorzi, who swam really well at the University Games, winning the 50m breaststroke, adds another dimension to the 50m breaststroke," Hill said.
"Who knows? Maybe we get two guys on the podium in the 50m breast, so there are a lot of 50s we are looking to win medals in.
"Unfortunately, they are not Olympic events but this is the World Championships and we will take it."
South Africa returned from Shanghai in 2011 with three bronze medals, courtesy of Van der Burgh's efforts in the 50m and 100m breaststroke, and Zandberg's third place in the 50m backstroke.
Le Clos, the Olympic gold and silver medallist in the 200m and 100m butterfly respectively, would also go head-to-head with Schoeman in the 50m butterfly.
Schoeman, 33, had shown age-defying form this season and was South Africa's trump card in the 50m butterfly and freestyle.
Zandberg would be aiming for his fifth medal from as many world championships in the 50m backstroke.
The team comprised a number of youngsters with long distance swimmer Myles Brown and medley specialist Michael Meyer two of the brightest prospects.
Brown said he hoped to swim a personal best at the championships and, if everything went well, to qualify for a final.
"I am looking to make another step-up now and, if I'm able to make the step-up, hopefully make a final," Brown said.
"I don't know exactly what to expect at this level. There are a lot of main guys I haven't raced against yet.
"It takes some pressure off me, knowing this is mainly a learning experience."
SSA selected eight women in the team with 24-year-old Trudi Maree the most senior in the team and Karin Prinsloo adding some Olympic experience.
While he did not expect any medals from the women's team, Hill hoped to see them gain some crucial experience.
The opening day of the championships on Sunday would see Brown swim the 400m freestyle, while Le Clos and Schoeman would compete in the 50m butterfly event.