Johannesburg - Swimming South Africa hopes to see women swimmers on the podium at the 2016 Rio Olympics following the launch of the ‘Get the Girls to Gold’ programme in Johannesburg on Wednesday.
The programme, initiated by Marie Claire magazine, aims to raise funds for eight promising young female swimmers with an eye on the Rio Games.
An account within the Citadel Philanthropy Foundation (CPF) has been created for the benefit of SSA and will be managed by Citadel Wealth Management.
Princess Charlene of Monaco, an ex-South Africa Olympic swimmer, has vowed her support for the initiative, which would see the girls participate in international competitions and receive other educational backing.
"It started a year ago with a timeous comment of Ryk Neethling," said Marie Claire South Africa editor, Aspasia Karras.
"Ryk explained back then that there was a need to help girls achieve Olympic greatness and that it was the fervent desire of [South African team coach] Graham Hill to set up a project that would do just that."
SSA identified the girls for the programme and would be responsible for managing the funds and expenses for their preparation in qualifying for the 2016 Olympics.
"There are many talented youngsters in this group and our selection criteria was a combination of age and in terms of performance," SSA president Jace Naidoo said on Wednesday.
Considering that most of medals won in the women's section at the 2012 Games were between the ages of 15 and 18 years, the eight girls aged between 11 and 15 years will be at a right age to bring back medals for South Africa.
Neethling has for long been calling for a mind shift on getting the women battle hardened for major events.
He hoped the programme could bring a new generation of young women through, that are not scared to be "tough".
"Charlene is a good example because she was fierce, while she is a lady when she got onto the blocks you had to watch out and now she is a princess," Neethling said.
"Hopefully this will inspire a few of the girls to really go for gold and inspire more youngsters, for us to bring through more champions."
Neethling said the lack of women coming through the ranks at international competition had nothing to do with a lack of talent or coaching, but rather the shortage of attitude by the women’s swimmers in South Africa.
"It is about attitude, that hunger when things are getting tough they should get excited, and it is not just them, but also their parents," Neethling said.
Karras said she hoped the initiative would be able to raise at least R250 000 per year to support the girls.
"That would get them to two international swim meets and two workshops a year, and obviously we would prefer more, but I realise that it is quite tough out there," Karras said.
At the launch of the programme Citadel and Lucky Star donated towards the fund, giving the girls a financial boost of R20,000.
Girls on the programme: Ayanda Maphumulo (13), Jamie Reynolds (15), Erin Gallagher (14), Marlies Ross (15), Khwezi Duma (11), Nathania van Niekerk (14), Rita Naude (15), Erin Anderson (14).