Swimmers question the national orders

2013-04-28 14:00

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Fellow gold medallist feels left out, with all attention lavished on Le Clos

The awarding of the Order of Ikhamanga to Olympic gold medallist Chad le Clos yesterday, Freedom Day, has caused some ructions in the swimming fraternity.

At the centre of the rumpus is the fact that Le Clos has been showered with accolades since he won gold and silver at last year’s London Olympic Games, while the achievements of fellow Olympic gold medallist and world-record holder Cameron van der Burgh have been overlooked, by comparison.

Van der Burgh’s agent Ryk Neethling, himself a recipient of the Order of Ikhamanga in Silver in 2006, said the 24-year-old star was disappointed at not being honoured in the same way as Le Clos and others.

“It’s not that Cameron is angry that Chad received the honour. It has nothing to do with Chad,” Neethling said.

“As a recipient, I am not sure how I was nominated, but I would imagine it would be done by Swimming SA.

“The swimmers did well at the Olympic Games over the last few years and it is not a popularity contest. Receiving this honour is similar to being knighted in England.”

Neethling emphasised that Van der Burgh had no issue with Le Clos receiving the honour and added that the two athletes got along swimmingly.

Le Clos was named in the 2013 list of recipients by the national orders chancellor, Cassius Lubisi, at the Union Buildings in Pretoria on Tuesday.

The 21-year-old swimmer grabbed international headlines at the London Games when he beat a swimming great, the American Michael Phelps, to claim the 200m butterfly event.

Two days later, Le Clos won silver in the 100m butterfly, narrowly losing to Phelps.

On his return to South Africa, he was honoured by the national sports awards as Sportsperson of the Year.

Van der Burgh also made history at the London Games when he became the first male South African swimmer to win gold in an individual event at the Olympics. He did this in emphatic style when he set a new world record of 58.46, shaving 0.12 seconds off Australian Benton Rickard’s previous mark.

To add to his long list of achievements, he was the first swimmer to break the 26-second barrier in the 50m breaststroke.

Since 2003, five swimmers have been honoured with national orders, with Paralympic star Natalie du Toit making the yearly list on separate occasions.

Among the illustrious past recipients is legendary swimmer Penny Heyns, who won both the 100m and 200m breaststroke at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in the US, and bronze in the 100m breaststroke at the 2000 Sydney Games in Australia.

Four-time Olympian Roland Schoeman was nominated in 2006 along with Neethling, but only received the order in 2007.

Neethling said they merely wanted to know what a person had to do to be nominated for a national order.

“We just want to know what the merits are and what a person has to do, because when one breaks a world record and wins a gold medal as he (Van der Burgh) did, it doesn’t get better than that.

“The same goes for the rowers and, I think, federations – be it the SA Rugby Union, Athletics SA or Swimming SA – should nominate, (or) every swimmer’s mother could fill in the form and nominate someone.”

The Order of Ikhamanga is awarded to a South African citizen who has excelled in the fields of arts, culture, literature, music, journalism and sports.

A national order is the highest award the state president can give to individual South Africans, as well as to foreigners, who have played a part in developing the nation.

According to the presidency, a person does not have to be a well-known personality to receive an order.

Every year, the chancellor of the national orders invites members of the public and non-governmental, civic-based and faith-based organisations to nominate people for orders.

The National Orders Advisory Council then considers the nominees and recommends qualifying candidates.

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