12 swimmers get the times

2012-04-28 18:40

With the national Olympic swimming trials done and dusted, 12 swimmers achieved the tough qualifying times at last week’s trials in Durban.

This is far fewer than the 22 swimmers who travelled to the 2008 Beijing Games, where they failed to win one medal.

The selection criteria were far tougher than previous Olympics and the fuller swimming suits allowed at the previous Olympics are now banned.

South African swimmers are some of the few in the world who have to swim two qualifying times, one at an international event and the other at the national Olympic trials, to go to London.

Twelve swimmers achieved qualifying times at the championships, but Suzaan van Biljon, Charl Crous and Roland Schoeman, still need to achieve this time at an international event if they want to swim individually in London.

Another reason for the bigger team in 2008 was that South Africa entered four relay teams – three men’s and one women’s team.

With the tough qualifying times only two men’s relay teams will be considered (4x100m freestyle and 4x100m medley).

South Africa has a realistic chance of making the finals of these events in London and perhaps even the chance of a medal.

The men’s 4x200m freestyle relay team qualified for the Olympics at last year’s World Championships with a 12th place, but was not considered as they did not meet the tough qualifying standard for being placed fifth in the world.

How many individual medals can South Africa expect at the 2012 Olympics with its new streamlined team?

Cameron van der Burgh, who is aiming for gold, is considered to be South Africa’s best chance.

Van der Burgh, who has won medals at the past three World Championships, dipped under the one minute mark in the 100m breaststroke at the championships, winning in 59.90 and clocking the world’s third best time.

Van der Burgh failed to make an impression at the previous Olympics, but as a debutante, the occasion got to him. He is far stronger mentally now.

Chad le Clos has been producing amazing times for the past year, being crowned the Swimmer of the Fina World Cup in the short course season.

He would like to swim in four individual events: the 100m and 200m butterfly, 200m and 400m individual medley and is aiming to swim in the two relay events.

“I have seven weeks of training to improve. I know I am not up there yet, but there’s no reason why I can’t improve for London. I hope the occasion doesn’t get to me,” he said.

Graham Hill, his coach and the national coach, said they were not expecting silverware at this Olympics but were aiming for Brazil in 2016.

After the championships Le Clos was ranked third in the world in the 200m butterfly and 10th in the 400m individual medley, his two favourite events. The Americans and several European nations have yet to hold Olympic trials.

A fierce competitor, Le Clos might be in with a chance. He knows he is competing against two of the world’s best, Michael Phelps and Ryan Lochte.

“I like to come from behind and finish strong, but that does not always work. You have to mix your strategy to deliver a surprise,” he said.

Swimmers who achieved qualifying times:
Chad le Clos (20 butterfly, 200m IM, 400m IM, 200m freestyle), Kathryn Meaklim (200m IM, 400m IM), Cameron van der Burgh (100m breaststroke), Riaan Schoeman (400m IM), Heerden Herman (400m and 1500m freestyle), Gideon Louw (100m freestyle), Darian Townsend (200m IM), Wendy Trott (800m freestyle), Karin Prinsloo (200m backstroke), Roland Schoeman (50 freestyle), Suzaan van Biljon (200m breaststroke) and Charl Crous (100m backstroke).

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