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Cameron is tops

Cameron van der Burgh was crowned South African Aquatics ‘Swimmer of the Year’ 2009 at a function held Thursday on the eve of the FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup in Durban this weekend.

Double breaststroke world-record-holder, Van der Burgh finished as the No 1 swimmer in the 2008 FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup series and got the selection panel’s approval ahead of fellow candidates in Jean Basson (fourth in the 400 metres freestyle final at the 2008 Beijing Olympics), Roland Schoeman (who set a world record in the 50 metres butterfly at the 2008 Telkom Short Course Championships in Germiston, and fellow Olympic team-mates Darian Townsend, Sebastien Rousseau and Kathryn Meaklim.

Townsend had been nominated based on his six gold, five silver and two bronze medals during the 2008 FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup, while Capetonian Rousseau had a busy season in claiming the national 200m butterfly record. Meaklim cashed in on the lucrative FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup circuit to end third on the women’s points standings.

Van der Burgh and Basson shared the ‘Best Performance of the Year’ award, while in the Personality of the Year award which was decided by public vote on the national federation’s website, Cameron van der Burgh finished with the most votes.

Abbotts College matric pupil Rousseau came out on top in the ‘Most Promising Athlete of the Year’ category, with Olympic and Paralympic star Natalie du Toit named as the ‘Disabled Swimmer of the Year’.

Nicholas Pawley (Diver of the Year), Shannon Crowder (Synchronised Swimmer of the Year) and Etienne le Roux (Water Polo Player of the Year)

It was all KwaZulu Natal in the coaching awards, with Graham Hill ÔÇô mentor of national stars Chad le Clos and Charl van Zyl ÔÇô being named as ‘Coach of the Year’ in the junior section, while Alisdair Hatfield ÔÇô who coaches Riaan Schoeman, Chad Ho and Meaklim ÔÇô named as the ‘Coach of the Year’.

Ho’s ninth place finish in the 10 kilometres open water swim competition at the Olympics last year, plus a string of victories at the SA Championships and in the Swim Challenge Series, paved the way for him to take the ‘Open Water Swimmer of the Year’ category.

Atlantis Swimming Club received the Development Club of the Year honours, while Bonny Harris from Central Gauteng was rewarded with the ‘Learn To Swim Instructor of the Year’ award for her efforts in teaching children in the Johannesburg to swim.

Mpumalanga’s Manqoba Shongwe’s efforts towards swimming development at grassroots level were also noticed and he was rewarded with the ‘Volunteer of the Year’ award while Eastern Province Aquatics secretary Lorraine Deasy was named as the ÔÇ£Administrator of the Year’.

Frans Aldrich from the Free State, who is actively involved with the Learn to Swim developmental programme in the province, and has been on the aquatics scene for the past 26 years, received a ‘Lifetime Achievement award’.

In welcoming a host of international and local swim stars to Durban for the two-day FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup which starts tomorrow, Swimming SA President Jace Naidoo said: ÔÇ£The calibre of the South African aquatics performances produced during the period 1 May 2008 to 30 April 2009,┬á forced the awards selection panel to spend much time debating the outcome of several categories, and I have no doubt that this week’s opening leg of the 2009 FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup here in Durban will produce many highlights which will come into the reckoning for next year Swimming SA awards.

ÔÇ£On behalf of Swimming SA, I wish to extend my best wishes to the award winners and the best of luck to all swimmers in action in the FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup over the next two days here in Durban.ÔÇØ