Hill promises swimming medals
Johannesburg - South Africa's swimming coach Graham Hill is expecting to see more qualifiers emerge from this week's Olympic trials, when the National Swimming Championships begin in Durban on Monday.
So far, just 12 athletes have swum the A-standard time in their respective events, with all of them now needing to repeat the feat over the next seven days if they are to guarantee themselves a ticket to London.
“It's very difficult to say, but I'd like to have a lot more qualifiers to increase our medal chances,” Hill said ahead of the championships.
“But the times are pretty tough. We're already watching the rest of the world have their Olympic trials and there are numerous top-class swimmers that will not be in London.
“I think there will be more than 12 because from what I've seen and heard from our various coaches, this is probably one of the best prepared national Olympic trials to date, so I think we're in for a good show next week.”
SASCOC, the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, has strict qualifying procedures in place for 2012 with swimmers required to record the A-standard time twice during a 10-month period, including once at this week's meet.
The times also have to be achieved in the final of the athlete's respective race, although that requirement has not been cast in stone.
“You can't do qualifying time before the trial or after the trials and not do it at the trials,” Hill said. “So it's a simple equation.”
Alternate arrangements are in place for swimmers that do drop below the A-standard times and need to swim it a second time - there are May meets in Germany and Ireland which they will enter.
Breaststroke specialist Cameron van der Burgh, the country's highest profile swimmer, is one of eight male athletes to have reached an A-standard time, having done so in the men's 100m breaststroke event.
The others are Heerden Herman (1500m freestyle), Riaan Schoeman (400m individual medley), Gideon Louw (50m freestyle), Darian Townsend (200m freestyle and 200m IM), Sebastien Rousseau (200m butterfly and 200m IM), Chad le Clos (100m butterfly, 200m butterfly and 400m IM) and Graeme Moore (50m freestyle and 100m freestyle).
The four women that have met the requirements are Vanessa Mohr (100m butterfly), Kathryn Meaklim (400m IM), Karin Prinsloo (200m backstroke) and Wendy Trott (800m freestyle).
Hill said the stringent qualifying measures would increase South Africa's medal chances at the Olympics.
“I'm sure we're going to get some medals, how many and what colour I don't know. But obviously the aim is to win medals and the criteria that has been set out by SASCOC points in that direction because it's such a tough criteria to get into the Olympics in the first place.
“I think it's fair to say (that once they've qualified for the Olympics) they have a chance to win a medal.
“But the Olympic Games is a massive stage and to get through the heats and the semi-finals is extremely tough. I think once you're in the final then there's every chance of coming out with a medal.”