/ 18 May 2008

Financial troubles could sink SA swimmers

South Africa’s ”awesome foursome” are making waves less than three months before the Olympic Games in Beijing — despite revelations that the support for the South African Olympic swimmers from Swimming South Africa (SSA) could come to a halt, according to the Sunday newspaper Sondag.

Lyndon Ferns, Roland Schoeman, Gideon Louw and Ryk Neethling shattered the Australian meet record in the 4x100m freestyle relay at an international gala in Santa Clara.

The ”new” foursome are the fastest men in South African swimming in the 100m freestyle and swam a time of 3:15,58, shattering the previous meet record of 3:20,91, held by the Australians.

The South Africans, now in full training, are getting closer to the world record of 3:12,46 held by the United States.

But all their efforts could come to naught following the news that the support for the South African Olympic swimmers from SSA could come to a halt.

Sondag reports that South Africa’s Olympic dream to bag several medals in Beijing could remain just that: a dream. The report says SSA is in financial trouble as it has still not received the promised R9,3-million in sponsorship from the National Lottery Fund.

Shaun Adriaanse, chief executive of SSA, confirmed the federation is in financial trouble as it had assumed that it would receive the sponsorship.

”I do not want to get into a fight with the Lotto in the media, but we have to cut back drastically in our spending. Because of our financial difficulties, we are looking at all our expenditure and that includes the preparation of our Olympic swimmers,” said Adriaanse.

Twenty swimmers qualified for the Olympic Games in Beijing. This is the biggest swimming team to qualify and South Africa’s biggest prospect of bagging medals.

The South African swimming team bagged four medals at the Olympic Games in Athens.

”It is very important that our swimmers compete internationally before the Olympic Games, but all plans have been put on hold as we are struggling financially,” said Adriaanse.

The Mare Nostrum galas in Europe start early next month in Monaco, Barcelona and Canet. SSA has traditionally sent a team to these galas and wants to do so again.

”It is good preparation as the competition is good and it is swum in an Olympic pool. The Lotto fund has requested more information from us which we duly sent through. But we are still in the dark as to whether we will be receiving any sponsorship from them,” said Adriaanse.

It is not only the Olympic team that will not be able to compete. A junior team was scheduled to compete at Fina’s Youth Championships in Mexico in July, but this may not be possible.

Plans by SSA to host the African Championships at Ellis Park pool are also in doubt.

Sershan Naidoo, public relations officer of the Lotto, said a process has to be followed before any money can be paid out.

”The National Lotteries Board has to screen each request because we work with the public’s money. For very big amounts the federations have to send reports of how the money was spent and is going to be used before the next sponsorship is approved.”

He said there were problems with the request from SSA, but Adriaanse said all documentation had been provided.

”If we received the necessary documentation, it will have to go through the process again. I can’t say how long it will take before it is approved,” said Naidoo. — Sapa