SA swim stars promise fast, very fast, for short course champs

2009-08-06 00:00

FAST, very fast! That was the prediction of SA swim star Gerhard Zandberg yesterday, just two days before the Telkom SA Short Course Championship gets under way at the GC Jolliffe Swimming Pool in Pietermaritzburg.

The event, starting tomorrow and ending on Monday, sees world records, African records and national marks in the firing line as the in-form SA swimmers look to repeat the successes of the Fina World Swimming Championship in Rome.

Cameron van der Burgh, a gold medallist in Rome, will be going all out to see if he can better his world mark in the 50m breaststroke (a world record of 26.67 sec) and 100 m breaststroke in the fast local pool.

Joining Van der Burgh will be 50m backstroke bronze medallist Zandberg, another who could threaten world records.

“At the Fina World Championships held in Rome over the past 10 days, the SA swimmers set a new world record, 20 African records and made 10 finals against the best swimmers in the world,” said Zandberg.

“If you think those performances were fast, wait until we change from a 50-metres swimming pool competition to the 25-metres short course version.”

Zandberg and his colleagues will be keeping a close eye on the Internet to see how the Canadians and British are doing in their short course gala in Sheffield, which starts today.

“The records will tumble in the UK as well, I have no doubt, but we are fortunate to be going into the Telkom SA Short Course Championships so soon after the Fina World Championships,” remarked Zandberg, who clocked 24.34 sec in the 50m backstroke final on Sunday in Rome.

Competing at the national short course showpiece is a prerequisite in order to qualify for the SA leg of the Fina/Arena Swimming World Cup in Durban later this year.

Seals stars Darian Townsend and Neil Versfeld will also be the ones to watch as they aim at the world marks leading up to their planned World Cups.

Townsend has been very close to the 100m and 200m individual medley (IM) records, while Versfeld is aiming at the 200m breaststroke time. Both Versfeld and Townsend are former NCAA Champions on the U.S. college circuit, and are strong competitors in short course racing.

Another star from the past is Olympic silver medallist Terence Parkin, who will be making his appearance after a long break. Parkin will be using this meet as preparation for the World Deaf Championships next month.

The likes of Lyndon Ferns, Roland Schoeman, George du Rand and Graeme Moore add to the competition in what is expected to be the fastest SA Short Course Championships yet.

The younger talent in Chad le Clos, Riaan Schoeman, Darren Murray and Charl van Zyl are also expected to be in fine form in the numerous events. Their experience gained in Rome should help them enormously.

On the women’s front, three-time Olympian Mandy Loots returns to the water in the butterfly events, while Port Elizabeth’s teenage swim sensation, Jessica Liss, is set to be in the hunt for medals in the breaststroke events. Joining her will be Kathryn Meaklim, who is likely to compete in a number of events over the four days.

“The Telkom SA Short Course Championships were originally scheduled to be held in Germiston for the second consecutive year,” said Swimming SA CEO Shaun Adriaanse. “But with many of the coaches requesting the event be held at the coast, in order to assist swimmers from a performance perspective following the World Championships in Rome, the event was moved to KwaZulu-Natal and some fine swimming is expected.”

Meet organiser and Seals coach Wayne Riddin said Pietermaritzburg has jumped at the opportunity to host the event.

“Swimming South Africa approached us in June to organise the champs, leaving things a little late for us to really give the swimmers something extra to race for,” Riddin said. “We have Msunduzi Municipality marketing and communications manager Brian Zuma to thank for getting the local authority involved at such short notice, and hats off to the other sponsors like Star Hire and ABI …”

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