Johannesburg - Ahead of the world swimming championships in Kazan, Russia, from August 2-9, here are five southern African names to look out for in the pool at the Kazan Arena Stadium.
CHAD LE CLOS (RSA) - After stunning American Michael Phelps to win the 2012 London Olympic Games 200-metre butterfly gold, Le Clos has become a household name with some commentators stating that his performances mark the definitive post-Phelps era in competitive international swimming. South African medal hopes in Russia will rest largely on the shoulders of Le Clos who, though still not in the top 20 of the butterfly and freestyle FINA rankings, has shown great form in the months leading up to Kazan. Le Clos will, therefore, be looking to impress, specifically in the 200m freestyle and 200m butterfly categories where in June he picked up silver and gold medals respectively during the Barcelona leg of the Mare Nostrum series. As if that was not enough, Le Clos managed to set a new championship record of 1:54:90 in the 200m butterfly.
KIRSTY COVENTRY (ZIM) - Zimbabwe sports golden girl, Coventry comes into the championships after a series of convincing performances as she broke the African 50m backstroke record in the finals of the May 2015 Arena Pro Swim meet in Charlotte in the United States with a time of 28.23. However, rather than times and titles, the veteran will be setting her sights on making the finals in Kazan and qualifying for her fifth Olympic Games in Rio next year. The world championships offer 31-year-old Coventry, currently tied with Hungarian great Krisztina Egerszegi for most solo Olympic medals, a chance to check the much younger competition in the form of 20-year-old American Missy Franklin and 19-year-old Chinese wunderkind Ye Shiwen.
CAMERON VAN DER BURGH (RSA) - The other half of South Africa's medal grabbers at London 2012 Olympic Games, Van der Burgh will be going to Kazan with mixed results from recent meets. The South African speedster managed two golds in the French open in June for the 50m and 100m breaststroke. However, in the Italian half of his European sojourn, Van der Burgh was dethroned as the world's fastest swimmer by Briton Adam Peaty. Van der Burgh's form was also tested by the European series as he failed to go below his 100m breaststroke goal-time of 59 seconds, clocking 1:00:77. Van der Burgh will be driven to redeem himself in Kazan.
MYLES BROWN (RSA) - Distance swimmer and a close second for South African medal hopes in Kazan, Brown has come into his own after shifting his focus from the 800m and 1500m freestyle to the 200m and 400m freestyle a little over five months ago. In the South African championships in Durban last April he caused a major upset by beating training partner Le Clos and securing a podium spot for the 200m freestyle. The tournament saw him wrap up a quartet of medals with a podium position for the 100m, 400m, and 800m freestyle races. Brown will go to Kazan with boosted confidence and a hunger to show his Olympic medal-winning team-mates that he has what it takes to be counted among them.
And a young talent to watch out for:
AYRTON SWEENEY (RSA) - The unknown and 200m breaststroke wild-card of the South African team, Sweeney won the South African championship for his category and clocked a time of 2:11:64 which was two hundredths of a second below the Qualification Time Standards (QTS) at the tournament. Sweeney has been making waves in the South African varsity circuit, producing excellent results in his breaststroke discipline for the past year, but this is his first successful attempt at achieving a QTS. Sweeney will, therefore, have everything to prove in Kazan.