The South African swimming team got their preparations for next month’s Fina World Championships in Shanghai, China off to a good start with a 14-medal haul at the recent Mare Nostrum swimming series in Europe.
The team picked up three medals at the first leg in Barcelona, with seasoned SA swimmers taking the spoils.
Cameron van der Burgh once again showed his class, taking gold in the men’s 50m breaststroke, with sprint veteran Roland Schoeman also taking first place in the 50m butterfly.
SA record holder and former world champion Gerhard Zandberg demonstrated that he is still a force to be reckoned with, finishing third in the 50m backstroke.
The trio continued their fine form at the second leg gala in Canet-en-Roussillon, France where the women also showed their potential.
The team added eight more medals to their tally with three gold, two silver and three bronze.
Commonwealth and world short course champion Chad le Clos achieved his first podium finish, winning bronze in the men’s 100m butterfly, clocking 52.91 seconds.
He finished narrowly behind Japan’s Takuro Fujii, who won in 52.24, and Brazilian Mario Almeido who took silver in 52.81.
Zandberg broke the 50m backstroke championship record of 25.14 set by Australia’s Benjamin Treffers with a fast 24.96 to secure victory.
Former world short course record holder Kathryn Meaklim, who managed a third place in the 200m individual medley in a time of 2:16.46, was the first SA woman to earn a medal in the series.
Later on the first day of the gala, 15-year-old Michelle Weber won gold in the women’s 800m freestyle, clocking 8:49.68.
Weber finished over five seconds ahead of France’s Lara Grangeon (8:55.45) and Denmark’s Nie Nielsen (8:56.86).
The teenager missed her second podium finish with a fourth place in the 400m freestyle in a time of 4:18.66, with Meaklim (4:19.31) taking fifth place.
Schoeman had two good showings in Canet-en-Roussillon where he won silver in the 50m freestyle (22.49) and 50m butterfly (23.86).
The veteran, however, will hope to start winning tight races in his build-up to the Fina World Championships.
Off to Rome
Van der Burgh was in world beating form in the 50m breaststroke, bagging gold with a fast time of 27.72, and also picked up the bronze over 100m, clocking 1:01.14.
Meanwhile, Swimming South Africa sent the national youth team to the third leg of the series in Monaco, with Schoeman, who swam a season’s best in the quarterfinals of the 50m freestyle in 22.31, being the only senior swimmer in the squad.
Schoeman, however, could not repeat the performance in the semifinals and had to be content with fourth place.
The team won three medals in Monaco, with Bianca Meyer claiming bronze in both the 200m and 400m individual medleys.
The other medallist was Neil Versfeld, who scooped the bronze medal in the 200m breaststroke in a time of 2:16.06.
The South African team’s next outing will be at the International Setti Colli in Rome from June 17 to 19. — Sapa