SA trio book Olympic spots
Johannesburg - Chad le Clos, Riaan Schoeman and Kathryn Meaklim all secured their places at the Olympic Games after recording A-standard times at the SA Swimming Championships and Olympic Trials in Durban on Monday night.
Rising star Le Clos won the 400m individual medley final in a time of four minutes, 13.86 seconds ahead of Schoeman, who finished in 4:15.60.
Both were inside the 4:16.46 London qualifying time, which was also met by Michael Meyer (4:16.42), although he is likely to miss out with only the top two guaranteed to be picked for the Games.
Meaklim won the women’s 400m individual medley when she clocked 4:37.70, over four seconds quicker than the A-standard time of 4:41.75.
Two other Olympic times were set when Heerden Herman, the long-distance specialist, swam a time of 3:48.57 in the 400m freestyle final, although his ticket to London will be secured only if he wins the 1500m freestyle later in the week.
The other was by the country’s highest profile international star, Cameron van der Burgh, in the 100m breaststroke semi-final, when he dipped under the qualifying mark in 1:00.36 - a time he will need to at least match in the final if he is to guarantee selection for London.
The five athletes are among 12 swimmers to have completed the first part of a stringent SASCOC policy, which requires them to record the A-standard time twice during a 10-month period, including once in the final this week.
Le Clos, bidding to swim four events in London, three of which he has times in already, including the 400m individual medley, said: "This is huge for me, it’s the Olympic Games we’re talking about.
"There’s a few more races I need to get times in, but I’m going to take it one step at a time.
The race itself did not go exactly according to plan, and he seemed to come out too quickly over the opening butterfly leg.
"I came out really hard and I didn’t realise it," he said. "I only knew when I looked up at the board before the last leg.
"I was thinking, ‘Oh my word, I’m out so fast, will I make it?’ But thankfully I hung on to swim inside the time."
Schoeman added: "This takes quite a lot of pressure off me for the rest of the week. I have three more races to go, but this was my main one. I’m really thrilled to have made it."
Meaklim was also relieved to have achieved the time, which was also less than a second inside her South African record time.
She said: "Coming into the gala there’s always pressure on you because you know this is it, you have to do it here and now.
"I’m so, so stoked to have done it."
Herman’s selection status is slightly unclear as it was the first time he had dipped under the A-standard time.
Swimming SA had said beforehand that arrangements were in place for athletes who did not dip under the Olympic times to try again at May meets in Germany and Ireland.
Riaan Schoeman and Chad le Clos celebrate (Gallo Images)