Suzaan van Biljon will have one last shot at booking her place on the South African team to compete at the swimming World Championships taking place in Barcelona in July, writes Karien Jonckheere.
The Olympic finalist was the only obvious omission from the team of 22 announced by Swimming South Africa in Johannesburg on Thursday.
Van Biljon arrived in Port Elizabeth to compete in last month’s national championships but had to withdraw from the qualifying competition because of illness. Now she’ll have to prove to selectors that she is in World Championships shape, when she competes in the Mare Nostrum series in Europe next month.
ÔÇ£She was at Nationals but couldn’t swim and being a former world champion and finalling at the Olympics, we’ve decided to give her, and only her, the chance to swim some good times at Mare Nostrum,ÔÇØ said SA head coach Graham Hill. ÔÇ£If she does that and shows that she’s up there, we’ll have no problem selecting her,ÔÇØ added Hill, who described the team as a good mix of young and old.
Topping the list of expected podium performances in Barcelona are SA’s two Olympic gold medallists, Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh while also included in the team is triple Olympic medallist in Athens 2004 ÔÇô 32-year-old Roland Schoeman who was in excellent from at the national championships.
ÔÇ£We’d like to get our three medals from the same events we did at the Olympics with Cameron and Chad and then top that up with a few of the non-Olympic events so we’re looking at four or five medals,ÔÇØ said Hill, pointing to the likes of four-time long course world championships medallist Gerhard Zandberg who has a good shot at a medal in the 50m backstroke and will strengthen the 4x100m medley relay team.
Hill explained that the team is larger than expected due to the necessary change in qualification criteria after the challenging conditions in Port Elizabeth, where swimmers were meant to post qualifying times. Only Le Clos, Van der Burgh, Schoeman and KZN swimmer Myles Brown would have qualified for the World Championships under those criteria.
ÔÇ£We’ve got some youngsters on there. 2016 has always been our target and we need to get them out there now and get them some international experience,ÔÇØ he said. ÔÇ£If you look at Cameron and Chad and what we did with them prior to 2012 ÔÇô they were always out there racing and we feel that’s the best form of training, to get them ready for 2016.ÔÇØ
Thrilled to have his name on the team list was Giulio Zorzi who trains with Van der Burgh in Pretoria. ÔÇ£A lot of us were very lucky. I think the revised criteria are really good for the youth,ÔÇØ he said. ÔÇ£There are a lot of us youngsters in the team and I think it will really help us to get that experience and take that next step and maybe in the future be medallists at the Olympics,ÔÇØ added the 50m breaststroker.
ÔÇ£It’s a good squad we’ve come up with ÔÇô and we’ve taken into consideration our preparations not only for Rio in three year’s time but also in terms of the Commonwealth Games next year,ÔÇØ said Swimming SA president, Jace Naidoo. ÔÇ£There’s a combination of experience and youth and we are hoping that some of the youngsters will start coming through in addition to the performances we’ve had from Chad and Cameron last year.ÔÇØ
Swimming SA CEO, Shaun Adriaanse added that most of the organisation’s financial woes in sending the team to Barcelona had been taken care of. ÔÇ£At the moment the swimmers that are not on Operation Excellence will probably have to pay between R3000 and R4000 but we are talking to SASCOC and government and hopefully we’ll be able to cover that too so they won’t have to pay anything,ÔÇØ he said.
The team will compete at the Mare Nostrum series next month before attending a training camp in Hungary where they will also participate in the Hungarian National Championships at the end of June. It will then be back to Durban for a 12-day training camp before heading to Barcelona.
The team is:
Myles Brown (KZNA)
Chad le Clos (KZNA)
Michael Meyer (CGA)
Darren Murray (NTS)
Leith Shankland (KZN)
Cameron van der Burgh (NTS)
Gerhard Zandberg (NTS)
Giulio Zorzi (NTS)
Jessica Ashleigh-Cooper (WPA)
Trudi Maree (WPA)
Vanessa Mohr (NTS)
Tara Nicholas (KZNA)
Kyna Pereira (KZNA)
Karin Prinsloo (NTS)
Marlies Ross (NTS)
Rene Warnes (KZNA)
Men 10km: Chad Ho (KZNA), Troyden Prinsloo (KZNA)
Men 5km: Chad Ho (KZNA), Danie Marais (WPA)
Women 10km: Michelle Weber (KZNA), Clarice le Roux ((KZNA)
Women 5km: Michelle Weber (KZNA). Kyna Pereira (KZNA)