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08 Apr 2008 15:50
Gerhard Zandberg’s South African swimming contingent was caught up in the chaos at Terminal 5 at London’s Heathrow airport in London, which caused the swimmers from Gauteng and KwaZulu-Natal to miss their connection flight to Manchester.
The terminal opened recently only to descend into disorder as its baggage-handling system broke down, causing many flights to be cancelled and resulting in a massive build-up of luggage. to the embarrassment of British Airways.
Matters were worsened by the past weekend’s snowfall in the United Kingdom, which led to the cancellation of even more flights.
The team left Johannesburg on Monday night to compete in the Fina World Short-Course Swimming Championships in Manchester from April 9 to 13.
Upon landing in London, the swimmers and support staff—under the guidance of head coach Dirk Lange—were stranded aboard their aeroplane for 30 minutes while airport officials tried to get their skywalk electronic system across to the aircraft, followed by a lengthy wait for the good-old fashioned steps to arrive.
The team eventually exited via the skywalk system only to miss their connecting flight to Manchester, resulting in a three-and-a-half-hour delay while waiting for another flight.
It was a long morning at Heathrow for the 19-person group including the likes of Cameron van der Burgh, Thabang Moektsane, Melissa Corfe and Suzaan van Biljon.
Western Cape-based athletes Heerden Herman, Chanelle van Wyk, Jessica Pengelly and Sebastien Rousseau, along with assistant coach Karoly Toros, were more fortunate as they caught a different connecting flight, having flown to London from Cape Town.
“The delay at Terminal 5 in Heathrow has meant the South African team will not be able to put in a training session in the competition swimming pool in Manchester on Tuesday, and team management has been scurrying to acquire other swimming facilities in Manchester for the team to practice in, prior to the start of the competition on Wednesday,” said Lange.—Sapa
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