London Calling: Can’t darkies swim?

2012-08-04 09:27

Nine years ago, there was a huge sense of euphoria in aquatics circles that a black South African would soon emerge in the Olympic Games swimming pool.

Then, two youngsters from Soweto – Thabang Moeketsane and Lucky Nkabinde – were coming through the ranks and ­Moeketsane went on to become a national champion in the 50m breaststroke.

The dream was the Beijing Olympic Games in 2008, but it remained just that – a dream.

But as Nkabinde fell by the wayside, Moeketsane never gave up a stroke.

The lad from Moletsane said the best ­advice he got came from Ryk Neethling, who told him: “The best athletes never give up and if you can handle the bad times, you’ll come out on top.”

After a comeback late last year from a nine-month sabbatical, Moeketsane missed the boat for London 2012, meaning South Africa could wait for many years before it sees its black hope in the pool.

Swimming SA president Jace Naidoo once told City Press “there were promising black swimmers coming through the development structures”, but how long must we wait?

Neethling says producing swimmers can be done in 10 to 15 years, but notes:
» Swimming is a unique sport because it is a different medium – you’re in the water and it takes a lot of time to get used to it.

» It takes years, anything between 10 and 15 years, and we need a lot of kids in the water consistently.

»
Programmes like Learn to Swim need to be systematic and not just once a month.

“We heard Cameron (van der Burgh) ­saying (after winning gold last weekend) that his race was 14 years of preparation ­condensed into 58 seconds.

“We saw some great black swimmers (from other African countries) in the Olympics and I would really love to see that in South Africa,” said Neethling, who achieved his success at the Greece Games eight years ago.

“It can be done, but we need more facilities. Our pools are shocking in South Africa.”

South Africa’s nearest neighbours competing in London 2012 are Luke Hall for ­Swaziland and Kirsty Coventry from Zimbabwe, but both swimmers are based overseas.

Or is the perception that darkies can’t swim just true?

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