South Africa’s swimming stars came to the party in style on the opening night of the national aquatic championships in Durban on Sunday.
No fewer than four men swam Rio 2016 Olympic qualifying times and there were also two Paralympic qualifying times.
The phenomenal spectator support added to the electric atmosphere as a new African Record, four Olympic and two Paralympic qualification times were posted.
Sebastien Rousseau and Michael Meyer dominated the 400-metre individual medley with SA’s first two Olympic qualification times of the competition.
Rousseau touched the wall in 4min 14.75sec to edge out Meyer (4:15.71), both dipping under the required 4:16.71, while Ayrton Sweeney won bronze in 4:24.48.
In the tightly contested 400m freestyle, Myles Brown came from behind to scoop gold with an Olympic qualification time of 3:48.86, just 0.07sec ahead of Egypt’s Marwan Elkamash in 3:48.93, both going under the set 3:50.40, with Brent Szurdoki winning the bronze in 3:52.34.
Cameron van der Burgh did not disappoint in the 100m breaststroke semi-finals. The Pretoria swimmer, who holds the Olympic gold in this event, raced ahead of the pack in an Olympic qualification time of 59.69, with Jarred Crous coming in a close second in 1:00.88, just under 0.31secs off the 1:00.57 qualifying requirement. The final of the event will be held on Monday evening.
In the 100m butterfly semi-finals, Marne Erasmus, Vanessa Mohr and Jessica Ashley-Cooper took the top three positions for Monday night’s final in 1:00.16, 1:00.71 and 1:01.11 respectively, while the gold in the 400m individual medley final went to Marlies Ross in 4:50.26, silver to Kirsty McLauchlan in 4:53.98 and bronze to youngster Rebecca Meder in 4:57.06.
A strong Paralympian contingent will be expected at the Rio Paralympic Games after an outstanding performance where two qualifying times and an African Record were clocked tonight.
Kevin Paul (SM10) was first to race to a Paralympic qualification time in the 200m individual medley, winning in 2:15.78 (qualification standard 2:17.20), with Johann van Heerden finishing second in 2:28.22 and Jean Pretorius third in 2:33.84.
Alani Ferreira (SM13) was next in the water, also in the 200m individual medley, clocking a new African record and setting a Paralympic qualification time of 2:50.43, over two seconds under the 2:52.27 standard and taking just under eight seconds off Marike Naude’s 2011 record time of 2:58.10.
Shannon Martins won the silver in 3:26.95 and Michelle Bloem the bronze in 3:26.97.
In the S14 and S15 multi-disability 200m individual medley, Challis Wright claimed the gold in 2:25.46 ahead of Aaron Putz in 2:30.16 and Raymond de Freitas in 2:38.94, while on the women’s side, Christelle Kriel came first in 2:47.07, Michaela Kretzen was second in 3:04.87 and Cornelia Fowler third in 3:36.18.
In the B Finals, Christoff Ras was first in the 400m individual medley in 4:39.02, while Andrew Brown came in second with a time of 4:40.82 and Luke Erwee third in 4:42.67. In the 400m freestyle, Reynier Pretorius took the gold in 4:06.54 while the silver and bronze went to Dayne Wilson (4:06.92) and Erwee (4:09.50).
Marne Frylinck was first in the 400m individual medley B Final in 5:06.85, Hanim Abrahams took the silver in 5:07.03 and Robyn Kinghorn the bronze in 5:11.36.
Monday’s heats will start at 10am while the finals begin at 6.30pm daily.
The staging of this event has been made possible through the support provided by Swimming SA partners, Sport and Recreation South Africa, SASCOC, Arena, Rand Water and the National Lotteries Commission.
Olympic qualifying times following Day One:
Sebastien Rousseau – 400m individual medley – 4:14.75
Michael Meyer – 400m individual medley – 4:15.71
Myles Brown – 400m freestyle – 3:48.86
Cameron van der Burgh – 100m breaststroke (semi-final) – 59.69
Paralympic qualifying times:
Kevin Paul (SM10) – 200m individual medley – 2:15.78
Alani Ferreira (SM13) – 200m individual medley – 2:50.43
Picture of Rousseau on his way to an Olympic qualifying time courtesy of Steve Haag/Gallo Images