By Mark Etheridge
A trio of swimmers will open South Africa’s campaign at the 16th FINA World Championships aquatics extravaganza in Kazan, Russia on Saturday.
The championships feature synchronised swimming, diving, water polo and swimming (both open water and conventional).
Saturday will see Clarice le Roux, Chad Ho and Danie Marais featuring in open-water action when they line up for the five-kilometre ‘dash’ at the Kazanka River embankment.
The 10km open water will be swum a few days later where Ho and Marais swim on Monday and Clarice’s sister, Carmen and Michelle Weber do battle on Tuesday. Nicolaos Manoussakis is the sole SA competitor in the 25km race on 1 August.
Eighteen-year-old Weber continues to chase her sporting dream after her career was brought to a heart-stopping halt by health problems two years ago. She required surgery to correct a racing heart but has come on in leaps and bounds since a successful operation in Cape Town.
The Durban teenager told Road to Rio 2016 that she was 100% fit and ready to race for her country as she chases down a spot on Team South Africa at the Rio Olympics.
‘I qualified for Worlds at the SA Open Water Nationals in Cape Town earlier this year. I won both the 10 and 5km events making me automatically qualify for Worlds in both events.
‘But I’ll just be doing the 10km as the 5km isn’t swum at the Olympics. The 10km at Worlds is the first qualifier for us to get our tickets booked to the Olympic Games next year. The top 10 get to go.
‘In preparation for I’ve been overseas for seven weeks – 10 days in Doha for an altitude camp (the training centre has specially adapted rooms where the altitude is artificially raised) and then the rest of the time spent training in Italy.’
On the competition, Weber is up for the challenge.
‘It’ll be four laps of 2.5km and I’m feeling really good in the water and more excited to race that anything else! The other women in the race are strong but I think it’s going to be a close race.
‘The heart is 100% and is functioning 100%. I’ve had no issues and have been training extremely hard to get in those top 10 positions.’
South Africa has both a women’s and men’s water polo side in action and the women are in action first when Kelsey White’s charges take on the Netherlands in their first match. Their other matches will be against Australia and Greece. Skipper Pierre le Roux’s men’s side meet Argentina in their first clash, followed by matches against the fearsome Hungarians and then Kazkahstan.
Synchro starts on Saturday as well and SA have four representatives in the shape of Kerry-Beth Norden, Emma Manners Wood, Laura Strugnell and Courtney Musson.
Diving is the very first action of the championships on Friday (the same day as the opening ceremony) and taking the plunge for SA later in the competition are Nicole Gillis, Julia Vincent, Jaimee Gundry and Micaela Bouter.
Just five swimmers (all male) qualified for the World Champs but it’s a talented five with only newcomer Ayrton Sweeney not having swum at either the Olympics or Commonwealth Games. Sweeney has however swum in Kazan before at World Student Games.
The team is spearheaded by Olympic gold medallists Cameron van der Burgh and Chad le Clos. They’ll swim 50/100m breaststroke and 50,100, 200m butterfly respectively.
Myles Brown goes off in the 200 and 400m freestyle, Sebastien Rousseau in the 200m fly and 400m IM and Sweeney (like Van De Burgh) swims the 50/100m breaststroke.
Pic of Weber courtesy of Raymond Mollentze