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Verster has high hopes for swimmers in Mexico

By Mark Etheridge

South Africa’s swimmers are ready to mix it up at Mexico City for the Para Sports Festival starting on Saturday.

A team of five para-swimmers will do duty for the rainbow nation in the week-long competition which features both swimming and powerlifting.

The swimming contingent is made up of three men and two women (David McKloppers, Christian Sadie, Franco Smit, Alani Ferreira and Christelle Kriel).

The only para-powerlifter, Kimberley’s Ricardo Fitzpatrick, joins the team in Mexico on Friday.

Swimming manager/coach is Theo Verster. He told Team SA: ‘We’ve all arrived safely. The swimmers had a good trip and we’ve settled in well.

‘Training has also been very productive and I’m happy with the look and the dynamics of the team.

‘A few of the guys coming from the coast have showed some stress with adapting to altitude but I’m sure they’ll be fine by the time we start racing.

‘We’ve got a young and very inexperienced team but the quality and talent will go a lot way.

‘David’s only 16 and it’s first international swim and he’s never travelled outside South Africa.’

In comparison, both Ferreira (2016 Rio Paralympian) and Kriel have got international experience under their belt.

Verster also had high praise for the SA embassy in the Mexican capital. ‘The embassy in Mexico has been great…..actually they have set the bar and I hope all embassies around the world will follow in the footsteps of Mexico.

‘We loved the reception and effort that all the delegates of the Mexico embassy put in to host and welcome us as Team Para South Africa. We had a great time in meeting all and hope to keep this momentum going into the future. As a team this really gives us a sense of purpose to perform for our country.

‘It goes a long way to feel like a South African. In nearly 30 years of international experience its been a memory to bank!’

Verster reckons the Mexican experience will be crucial looking towards the 2020 Paralympics.

‘I have high hopes for this young team as this will be the stepping stone for us to see how they cope with big pressured events and start grooming them for 2020 and beyond.

‘I believe this group of swimmers will do their best for their country and post great results in their main events. We must make sure we assist and nurture their talents so they can give South Africa great service for many years to come.’