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Swimming SA 'needs sponsors'

2013-08-05 13:30
Jace Naidoo (Gallo Images)

Barcelona - "South Africa has a lot of talented swimmers but sponsorship would help turn the talented youngsters into medal winners," said Swimming SA (SSA) president Jace Naidoo at the conclusion of the 15th FINA World Championships in Barcelona on Sunday.

"We are very happy with all our swimmers, especially Chad le Clos, who won gold in the 100m and 200m butterfly and Cameron van der Burgh, who won gold in 50m breaststroke and silver in 100m breaststroke, but also some of the younger swimmers who have come through," Naidoo said.

"There was a good mix of experienced to less-experienced swimmers at these championships.

"We now hope that sponsors will come on board because, with the right level of support, we can turn a lot of those youngsters into medal winners."

The team did better than ever before in terms of the number of gold medals - winning three - and the last time they won five medals in total was in Melbourne in 2005.

Naidoo felt Le Clos' and Van der Burgh's performances stood out as they had both taken breaks after winning gold at the 2012 Olympics in London.

"They have just been getting back into training and are on track with their performances going towards Rio in 2016." Another swimmer he singled out was Giulio Zorzi, who won bronze in the 50m breaststroke."

"Giulio wasn't expected to (win a) medal but has shown that with determination you can get on the podium."

Naidoo said he was also impressed with veteran swimmer Roland Schoeman, aged 33, and it showed that anything was possible if you still had the determination and the belief.

All five medals had been achieved by male swimmers and he said it was harder to keep females in the sport, especially if they had not qualified for financial assistance from the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc).

"There is a very large drop off rates for female swimmers once they finish school.

"Last year, after London, a lot of our top female swimmers also stopped swimming, and that's a big challenge we need to address.

"That is where we hope to try and introduce the programme of university swimming to help ease this problem. This program would focus on coach support, competition support and general support.

"A lot of the younger females do not yet have the support from Opex (Sascoc's Operation Excellence) so they need to fund the training themselves."

Son of the late anti-Apartheid sports struggle icon Morgan Naidoo, who was a president of the South African Council of Sport and the non-racial South African Amateur Swimming Federation, Naidoo said his father, who was denied the opportunity to travel abroad to watch competitions such as the world championships by having his passport withdrawn, would be happy with some of the programmes which have been implemented.

"But he would also be wanting to see more change since then," he said. "The changes since 1994 have created the opportunities for our young athletes. At the same time, however, we still have a lot more to do." There is currently only one black swimmer participating at the highest level and Naidoo said it was an area which needed to be addressed.

"We have identified talented black youngsters for our squads from across the country and we have been taking them to a number of our competitions.”A lot of them take part in continental competitions so, from there, it's a step to international competitions. We have seen a lot of youngsters coming through, so the schools programme seems to be working.

"Yet until we get more resources, it’s going to continue to be a challenge as a lot of the youngsters are provided support by their parents.

"It's the gap between national and international swimming that we need to get support for so we hope sponsorship can provide us with that."

Another of the challenges SSA faced was to take the sport into all areas of the country.

"We want to transport the sport to far more people in rural communities.

"We need to get more facilities in the country and then ensure the schools programme is implemented correctly.

"The government is introducing swimming into the schools Olympics from next year which, we hope, will also raise the profile of the sport. Once, more schools are able to take part, we have a greater talent pool that we can pick from."

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