SA swimmers battle to rule the waters

2011-07-23 20:31

The first week of the swimming world championships in Shanghai has seen little to cheer about for South African swimming fans.

Not that hopes were very high – after all, the first week of the competition saw diving, synchronised swimming, water polo and open sea swimming, where South Africa is traditionally not particularly strong.

Disappointingly Chad Ho, who managed to win a surprising bronze medal in the five-kilometre open sea swimming event in Rome at the world championships two years ago, managed 20th place, in a time of one hour 54.24 minutes – just 33.9 seconds behind the winner Spyros Gianniotis of Greece in the 10km race.

The other South African in the race – Troy Prinsloo – finished 38th.

Ho?– who had to withdraw from the 5km team event as he was feeling unwell after his 10km race, which resulted in South Africa being scrapped?– said that he thought South Africans would probably be disappointed.

“We have put in so much effort into open water swimming, that it is sad that we were not rewarded for these efforts,” said Ho.

In the women’s 10km race, which Briton Keri Anne Payne won, Natalie du Toit was 39th, while Jessica Roux finished six places behind her team-mate.

In the men’s 5km race – which was swum in waters reaching above 30 degrees with the outside temperature 35 degrees plus – Prinsloo managed a credible 21st place, while young Capetonian Danie Marais was 32st.

German open water swimming star Thomas Lurz won the event for the fourth time in a row.

Marais said that it had not been an easy race: “I am not used to swimming in those temperatures.

“In the first lap I was dead and the second was hell.”
Nicole Brits, meanwhile, was the best of the South Africans in the women’s 5km race, coming 33rd, while Jessica Roux was 38th.

Both finished far behind Switzerland’s Swann Oberson.

In water polo both the men’s – and women’s team finished last in their group and failed to proceed to the knock-out stages, although they are both still involved in the competition in the ­­play-offs to determine the final placings.

The women’s team came within a few minutes of advancing to the next round as they were leading Cuba 9-8 with less than three minutes to go, but an equaliser for the Central American team saw South Africa fall behind their opponents after earlier defeats against China (22-5) and Italy (18-2).

The men’s team were similarly soundly beaten by Italy (17-1).

They also lost 20-3 to the US and 16-8 to Germany.

Nicola David and Emma Mannerswood finished last in the technical duets events of the synchronised swimming competition, while Mannerswood teamed up with Laura Strugnell in the free event, where they finished 42nd.

In the team event, South Africa placed 22nd.

The first week of the competition was dominated by the hosts, China, who picked up the first seven gold medals in the diving competition, and Russia, who were as dominating in the synchronised swimming events – winning the first five gold medals on offer.

With the swimming competition starting today, at least some South Africans will be in contention for a medal, with Chad le Clos having an outside chance in the butterfly events.

The 19-year-old, who won gold at the short course world championships in Dubai in December, said he was feeling strong going into the competition.

“I was not very pleased with the way I swam at the nationals and had a groin injury, which prevented me from giving my best in the individual medley events,” said Le Clos.

“I am much better now, but am concentrating on the butterfly events here and have not entered the individual medley.”

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