Our best Games in the pool yet!

2012-08-04 19:05

Two gold medals and a silver!

That’s the success story of the South African swim team at the London Olympics.

On Friday evening South Africa was in fourth position in the swimming medals tally, ahead of swimming nations like Australia, Russia and Britain, with one more swimming session to go but no South Africans in action.

Cameron van der Burgh’s performance in the 100 breaststroke (the gold medal in a new world record time of 58.46 seconds) was the beginning of success, according to Graham Hill, the national swimming coach.

“Cameron handled the pressure great and kept his focus and it could not have been easy for him. That gold medal inspired the whole team,” said Hill.

It is the most successful South African swimming team at an Olympic Games yet. Chad le Clos was the one who really produced the silverware, even though he is only 20 years old. He is coached by Hill.

Le Clos has become an instant celebrity, beating his hero Michael Phelps by the smallest of touches in the final of the 200 butterfly and winning in 1:52.96 in a new South African and continental record.

He came close in the 100 butterfly where he was just pipped by Phelps and won silver in 51.44.

“At any time of the season Chad could produce a qualifying time and that is why he was so successful. You have to swim fast times constantly to progress after the heats and semifinals. It is a known fact that only 70% of swimmers produce their best times at an Olympic Games,” said Hill.

South Africa had six individual swimmers in the finals. Apart from Van der Burgh and Le Clos (400 individual medley, 100 and 200 butterfly), Roland Schoeman finished sixth in the 50m freestyle.

Le Clos made it into the 200 individual medley, but withdrew from the race.

Two relay teams, the 4x100 and 4x200 freetsyle relay teams also swam in the finals.

Shaun Adriaanse, CEO of Swimming South Africa, said he was ecstatic.

“It took years of planning and we could do so much more with the corporate world’s help as we do not have a sponsor,” he said.

This is the fastest stroke and has produced the most world records.

Most swimmers start off by learning freestyle.

The stroke is also known as the front crawl or Australian crawl and has been practised since early last century.
Only 15m can be swum underwater from the start and from each turn, otherwise some body part must always be above the water.

 It is said the freestyle stroke was developed by Richard Cavill, an Australian who combined the over-arm stroke with the up and down kick motion.

Backstroke is the second slowest stroke and swimmers remain on their back throughout.

This technique was first swum with a frog kick (like the breaststroke).

The up and down kick is used now. Similar to the freestyle, only 15m can be spend underwater from the start or from each turn.

In 1991, the rules were changed so that when turning, the swimmers did not have to touch the wall with their hand, enabling them to do a much faster tumble turn.

Butterfly is the second fastest stroke and was invented by the German swimmer Erich Rademacher in 1926, improved upon by American Henry Meyer and accepted in competition in 1933.

It took many years before the controversial stroke was officially recognised and included in the Olympic Games in 1956.

Butterfly swimmers must keep their shoulders in line with the surface of the water, and make arm and leg movements together.

They also must not swim underwater except for the first stroke after the start and each turn.

The slowest, most technical stroke is breaststroke as strict rules must be followed.

Swimmers have to keep their shoulders in line with the water and the arm and leg movements must be pushed forward together, and brought back under the surface of the water.

At the turn and finish, both hands must touch the wall.

At the start, and at the first stroke and kick after a turn, the swimmers are allowed one arm stroke and one leg kick.

 At all other times the swimmer’s head must be kept above the surface of the water.

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