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Swimmers to get more chances

2013-04-21 18:58
Roland Schoeman (Gallo Images)

Port Elizabeth - Given the trying conditions at the SA Swimming Championships in the past week, swimmers will be given opportunities to qualify for the FINA World Championships, said Swimming SA (SSA) high-performance manager Dean Price.

"We are going to give a lot of people opportunities in terms of our selected teams for World Championships and the Youth Championships," Price said.

"We have a clause which gives Graham Hill (national coach) and I the discretion to include people, and we are going to use that to give people opportunities."

Two days of the six-day gala, which also served as trials for this year's World Championships, were cancelled because of poor water quality.

The programme was subsequently reduced to timed finals, with only one round in each discipline instead of the usual heats, semi-finals and finals.

"The conditions were far from perfect. We have to acknowledge that. We had some outstanding swims with Chad le Clos, number one in the world, with a 51 second swim... (in the 100m butterfly) that is a phenomenal performance on the night (Saturday)," Price said.

Four swimmers posted A-qualifying times for the world championships in five events, while a number of swimmers posted B-qualifying times.

Roland Schoeman (50m freestyle), Cameron van der Burgh (100m breaststroke), Myles Brown (800m freestyle) and Chad le Clos (100m and 200m butterfly) were the only swimmers to meet the standard.

"We have a small core group, of which we have about four or five guys and about three or four women, who are solid swimmers," Price said.

"They are right on the A times or doing an A time in these conditions, which is really good.

"Then, we have a group of about 12 really good youngsters coming up, who we want to groom over the next three years. So, if we get it right, we will have a great Rio (2016 Olympic Games)."

The swimmers would not be pressured about reaching the mark before the deadline, as times between July 1, 2012 and July 1, 2013 would be considered.

"We believe this has not been ideal and we don’t want to detract from the long term development of swimming," Price said.

"We are going to take some initiative here and give people opportunities to go to the World Championships, World Student Games and the World Youth Championships.

"We don’t want to stop people from gaining experience because the conditions weren’t great here."

A major concern at the championships was the women’s swimming, as none posted qualifying times.

However, Price said he was encouraged by some of the performances from youngsters such as 14-year-old Nathania van Niekerk and 17-year-old Tara Nicholas, who triumphed in senior events.

"We need to fast-track them now and hopefully in two or three years they are up there," he said.

Price said more work had to be done to ensure the women performed at an international standard.

"If you look at the girls, they are not in shape and they don’t look like world class swimmers and we have to take a stronger stand on getting the girls through."

Price said SSA had enough financial support to send a big team to the world championships, which would allow swimmers to gain experience with an eye on the Rio Olympics.

"FINA assist us with a certain amount, but if we don’t use that amount we get cut at the next world champs," Price said.

"We have to take it and give the kids the opportunity, because it is one of the few things we have financial support for."

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