Fourteen qualifiers for New Delhi after SA Champs

2010-04-19 00:00

OLYMPIAN Neil Versfeld swam one of his best races ever on the final day of the Telkom South African Swimming Championships that ended in Durban on Saturday night.

Versfeld, training at the University of Georgia, had to wait until the last day to compete in his favourite event, the 200m breaststroke where he finished ninth at the 2008 Beijing Olympics. Throughout the week, sprint specialist Cameron van der Burgh had indicated he had been training to compete in the 200m breaststroke.

Van der Burgh set the pace over the first 100 metres, turning 1:02.79 with Versfeld a second behind. But then at 125 metres, everything changed for Van der Burgh as Versfeld took the lead. Not only did Versfeld make up that one second deficit at the 100 metres, but he opened a four-second victory over Van der Burgh and went on to clock two seconds under the 2:13.69 Games qualifying time.

“It’s been a long week waiting for this race but it has been well worth it, qualifying for the New Delhi team,” said Versfeld who competed at the last Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in 2006 where he came sixth in 2:14.79.

Two unfamiliar names emerged from the men’s 1 500m freestyle after the strongest line-up ever assembled for the final.

Heerden Herman raced to a brilliant win in a Commonwealth Games QT of 15:06.75 and pulled Mark Randall to his QT for the second place in 15:09.75. This is the first time ever that there have been two qualifiers in a 1500m event.

It was a determined Roland Schoeman who got the evening off to a flying start in the men’s 50m freestyle where the comfortable pace he is known for, was fast returning without the advantage of‘fast suits’.

This time he equalled his best prior to the 2 000 Olympic Games in Sydney, his debut Olympics, clocking an amazing 22,04sec.

Schoeman pulled Gideon Louw through to another qualifying time as well where he “was also pleased with his result”, clocking 22,28sec.

Wendy Trott, who qualified for the Games in both the 400m and 800m freestyle during the week, made an appearance in an unfamiliar event for her, the 400m IM.

”Without aiming at any times, I am rather surprised that I managed to come so close to qualifying,” said the University of Georgia student.

Her time of 4:45.80 was just 0.72 seconds outside the QT of 4:45.08.

For veteran Mandy Loots, it was the last throw of the dice when she tackled the 200m butterfly in order to achieve that elusive QT. The 32-year-old raced to her fourth title of the championships to clock 2:12,03 - just 1,19sec outside the QT.

”It is really difficult to swim out there on your own trying to get the qualifying time,” said Loots who thrives on racing off a swimmer and really finishing a lot faster than she was able to on Saturday.

Swimming in her 18th national championships, Loots summed it up for all swimmers who did not achieve their goals during the week.

“I’ve learned over the many years I have been swimming that if you don’t make it for one thing you keep on trying for the next.”

In all, 14 qualifiers managed to achieve the times, 11 males and three female, including Natalie du Toit who qualified to swim in the disabled category after breaking two world disabled records.

However, with the relay teams still to select, this may open the door for at least two more swimmers to make it to New Delhi. But the lack of women qualifiers should tell the selectors that they need to come up with a contingency plan to get more women prepared for this level of competition before the same happens in 2012. A fewswimmers come to mind in Leone Vorster and the likes of Jessica Pengelly and Kathryn Meaklim who simply had an off-week and should not be discarded at this stage.

The complete list of qualifiers is:

Chad le Clos (KZN, 200m butterfly final), Jean Basson (CG, 200m freestyle), Roland Schoeman (NT, 50m butterfly and 50m freestyle), Cameron van der Burgh (NT, 100 breaststroke), Wendy Trott (WP, 800m freestyle and 400m freestyle), Natalie du Toit (CG, disabled S9 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly), Chanelle van Wyk (NT, 50m backstroke), Riaan Schoeman (KZN, 400m IM), Gideon Louw (NT, 50m freestyle), Darian Townsend (KZN, 200m IM), Sebastien Rosseau (WP, 200m IM), Neil Versfeld (KZN, 200m breaststroke), Heerden Herman (WP, 1500m freestyle) and Mark Randall (BOR, 1500m freestyle).

Among the swimmers with disabilities, another locally trained swimmer, David Coates, managed a bronze medal in the 200m IM event in the S14 category.

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