Talent drought looms for SA swimming

Former world record holder Gerhard Zandberg said on Wednesday that Swimming South Africa (SSA) needed to get its act together otherwise they can expect a massive exodus of talented local swimmers over the next 10 years.

His comments came after the four-day South African Short Course Championships wrapped-up on Tuesday in Bedfordview, Johannesburg.

With most of the high profile swimmers absent from the championships, lesser known swimmers had the rare opportunity of being crowned national champions.

It was, however, the handful of high profile swimmers that raked in the medals, with Zandberg, Chad le Clos, Mandy Loots and Karin Prinsloo stealing the show.

Director of coaching at Waterborn Swimming Club Peter Williams said it would always be disappointing not to have the top swimmers at the championships and the ones that were there weren’t looking for any significant performances.

“What is more perturbing is that we are still relying on the same old names to put in good performances,” said Williams.

“We have to put in significant planning to produce the quality swimmers like the bunch in 2000 and 2004.”

‘Lack of depth’
He said with the meeting held at altitude and in winter meant many clubs had to make a decision whether it was worth sending teams, especially if they were based at the coast.

The former world record holder in the 50m freestyle said the meet was also low on many swimmers’ list of priorities as some of them were setting their eyes on upcoming international events like the World Student Games in China and the Fina World Youth Championships in Peru.

“In the women’s breaststroke there are more than enough exciting swimmers but there is lack of depth across all the strokes,” said Williams.

Williams said there were a handful of talented young swimmers who made an impression on him, like 13-year-old Marlies Ross, 15-year-old Justine MacFarlane and 21-year-old Garth Tune.

There were instances where the youngsters gave veterans like Zandberg and Loots a good run for their money.

‘A good go’
Zandberg was well challenged in two of the finals where Le Clos and Tune came painstakingly close to beating the seasoned campaigner.

The 28-year-old Zandberg said it was encouraging to see the younger swimmers in good shape.

“It was also good to create camaraderie between the younger and older guys,” said Zandberg.

“I believe the local guys still have a lot of work ahead of them.

“The younger swimmers are very strong and there were a couple of key swimmers who gave the older guys a good go.”

Taking it into their own hands
But he said it was important to keep the youngsters’ feet on the ground by beating them.

“I do believe that is good for the future of swimming in the country,” he said.

Zandberg said the talent was coming through not because of the national federation but rather by their own accord.

“I believe the guys at the top weren’t making the right decisions and the guys’ successes came from making their own plans and opening up their own futures,” said Zandberg.

“We don’t rely on the federation anymore and we are making our own plans to scrape funds together.

“I believe many of our local swimmers will go overseas in the next 10 years.”—Sapa

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