By Mark Etheridge
in Brazzaville, Congo
National coach Graham Hill is expecting his Team South Africa swimmers to continue their domination of the pool as that code’s competition gets underway on Sunday here at the 2015 African Games.
Close on 30 swimmers will start to take to the water on Sunday at the brand-spanking new indoor pool, with workers applying the finishing touches to things on Saturday.
‘We’ve brought a strong squad up here. Obviously Chad [Le Clos] and Cameron [Van der Burgh] are the main guys but there’s a strong team around them,’ says Hill.
‘I’m hoping to see some of the girls coming through here and Karin Prinsloo and Marlies Ross must now step up and get some big medals.
‘This is a stunning, world-class pool… we have nothing approaching this back in South Africa.
‘But obviously guys like Chad, Cameron and Myles Brown are coming off the back-end of World Championships and World Cup and are at the end of a summer programme so I’m expecting some solid stuff here and a case of just getting the job done. Good, fast times but no world records.’
Instead Hill is looking to the future at these Games. ‘It’s more a case of the next generation of youngsters needing to come through. Guys like Caydon Muller, Calvyn Justus, Ayrton Sweeney and the Basson brothers, Alard and Alaric.’
And the same goes to the girls’ group.
‘We need to look at Megan van Wyk and Charlise Oberholzer and then the young girls like Kelly Gunnell, Vanessa Mohr and Tatyana Schoenmaker must also step up.’
It’s going to be a busy championships for the squad as most finals should feature two South Africans, with a maximum two swimmers from each country permitted.
’It wouldn’t be unrealistic to expect two medals from each event, with the exception of the 1500m freestyle where we only have Brent Szurdorki.’
Where to expect opposition to Africa’s strongest swimming nation? ‘In the boys the main opposition will come from Tunisia and Egypt and in the girls Tunisia and Zimbabwe.’
Meanwhile Le Clos continues to log up the lengths with there being no respite from training. On Friday he did between 8-10km in the pool and another 5km on Saturday despite a gruelling previous evening’s duty as official flagbearer for Team SA at the opening ceremony.
And it doesn’t get any easier for the sport’s national icon. ‘Quiet time for Chad? … after the Rio 2016 Games next year,’ quipped the coach.
Talking of flag bearers and the squad boasts yet another previous flag bearer in the shape of Schoenmaker, who performed the same duty for Team SA at last year’s Africa Youth Games in Gaborone, Botswana.
Sunday night’s finals see the 100m freestyle (women), 100m breaststroke (men), 400m Individual Medley (w), 200m free (m), 50m backstroke (w), 50m backstroke (m) and the 4x200m freestyle relay (w).
And if all goes to plan that should see a definite double-figure haul of medals landing in the Team SA treasure chest.