By Mark Etheridge
It’s a long road to Rio de Janeiro and the next Olympic Games in 2016 but already the hard yards are being put in by the next batch of South African swimmers.
As such Swimming South Africa sent an inexperienced squad of 28 to the inaugural Tri-Nation Super Series competition in Perth, Australia recently.
Up against the host nation and China, it was always going to tough for the Africans to shine. But as coach Graham Hill said before the trip, this was an ideal opportunity for the youngsters to swim against some of the world’s leading internationals.
There were just two gold medals for South Africa in the 39 events raced ÔÇô one of them being the women’s 4×100-metre medley which saw Australia and China being disqualified
The only individual gold┬á in the two-day event and exciting for South Africa’s search for the next Cameron van der Burgh and Chad le Clos, came from young Myles Brown.
Like Le Clos, he both comes from KwaZulu-Natal and is coached by the same, hugely experienced coach Graham Hill.
Brown certainly went the extra mile Down Under, swimming four events in the meeting which is the richest meeting in the world with prize money of $500,000.
And he flew back to South Africa with a win, a bronze medal third spot, and three personal best times.
His win came in the mixed 800-metres where he touched in 7min 59.12, ahead of Aussie Ryan Napoleon (7:59.58) and China’s Dai Jun (8:14.46). Even though times in a mixed event don’t officially count under FINA rules, it was hugely encouraging.
“It was a very heavy training week before the series so to go personal bests so early in the season was very good for me and Graham,” Brown told Road to Rio 2016 this week.
“I also swam the 400m free in 3:50 which was a personal best where I came fourth.. just missed out on a medal. I also swam the 4×200 free relay where we came third.
“And just after the 800 and another personal best I swam the 200m free and came fourth again, missing out another medal in 1:50.3!”
Before Australia his personal bests for the 800m had been 8:03, 1:51 in the 200 free and 3:51 for the 400m free.
Coach Hill is a man with an bird’s eye talent spotting ability and in recent years the name of Brown crops up more and more when the stars of 2016 are mentioned.
“I’ve been swimming for about 12 years now and I’ve been with Graham for five years. It’s been really great working with him,” enthused the 20-year-old Kearsney College product.
Now based in Durban where he’s studying for a Bachelor of Science degree through UNISA, Brown outlined his year ahead.
“Well I’ve got SA nationals in April where I hope to qualify for world champs in Barcelona! If I qualify then I’ll swim the Mare Nostrum series leading up to Worlds in Europe and then obviously Worlds in July… and hopefully a couple of the World Cup series after that. At the moment I’m just taking it one step at a time, but I’m really excited about this year and so is Graham!”
Before the July nationals there’s also the small matter of the Midmar Mile in his home province of KZN in February.
“When I was in the Under-13 age group I won it twice in a row and then I swam the 8mile the next year. I won give out of seven because the last one was cancelled due to bad weather.
“I’ve come fifth twice in the open age group and I think both times I was the third South African.”