Swimming South Africa announced on Wednesday a full-strength line up for the Fina World Short-Course Championships in Manchester, United Kingdom, from April 9 to 13.
President Jace Naidoo and national coach Dirk Lange said it is the strongest South African short-course squad selected to date — and, 2008 being an Olympic year, the most important.
”A successful campaign at the championships will further help motivate our swimmers in their quest for fast times in this important year on the swimming calendar,” said Naidoo.
Lange said the competition will be the perfect platform for South African swimmers to perform on the international stage and for their times to be judged accordingly. ”It is the last major swimming competition before the Olympics and will allow our athletes the opportunity of gelling as a team,” he said.
The team includes experienced campaigners in world 50m backstroke champion and national team captain Gerhard Zandberg and Olympic gold medallists Roland Schoeman, Ryk Neethling and Lyndon Ferns as well as a host of rising talent in Capetonian Sebastian Rousseau, Stellenbosch-based Heerden Herman and KwaZulu-Natal’s Wesley Gilchrist.
Two-time Olympian Mandy Loots will add much experience among the female athletes, with Lize-Mari Retief, Jessica Pengelly and Keri Shaw all capable of holding their own against world-class opposition.
”We are hoping to break some world records,” said Lange. ” Van der Burgh and Zandberg are two of the swimmers that are good for medals and, of course, our relay teams are very capable.”
Unlike their fellow athletes, the South African men’s hockey team, who are still awaiting a decision from the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee on their Olympic participation, the swimmers have their goals clearly defined.
The Olympic trials will take place in Durban from April 1 to 6. Athletes will need to post Olympic ”A”-level qualifying times to be considered for selection. ”Athletes who post ‘B’-level qualifying times may not be entered for the individual events at the Olympics but may be considered for the relay teams,” said Naidoo.
The selected squad will then attend a training camp in May before flying to Osaka, Japan, for another camp to ”acclimatise to conditions in the Far East”.
The squad will arrive in the Olympic village on August 4. — Sapa
Melissa Corfe (KZNA), Mandy Loots (CGA), Kathryn Meaklim (KZNA), Jessica Pengelly (WPA), Keri Shaw (NTZ), Lize Mari Retief (NTS), Suzaan Van Biljon (NTS), Chanelle van Wyk (KZNA).
William Diering (NTS), George Du Rand (FSA), Lyndon Ferns (NTS), Heerden Herman (WPA), Wesley Gilchrist (KZNA), Thabang Moeketsane (CGA), Sebastian Rousseau (WPA), Riaan Schoeman (KZNA), Roland Schoeman (NTS), Garth Tune (CGA), Cameron van der Burgh (NTS), Gerard Zandberg (NTS), Shaun Harris (EPA), Ryk Neethling (KZNA).