SA swimming sinks

2013-10-13 14:00

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Ellis Park, one of the best facilities in Johannesburg, is being poorly maintained

The swimming community in Johannesburg is homeless because one of the best facilities in the city, Ellis Park, is being crippled by poor maintenance.

Even South Africa’s golden boy of swimming, Chad le Clos, had to change his high-altitude training programme at Ellis Park, because the water temperature is not being maintained at a consistent level.

The boilers that keep the pool heated have not been serviced for five years. And it is not just Le Clos whose plans have been affected – other top development, masters and disabled swimmers are also battling, as are lifeguards, who also train at the pool.

City Press spoke to Swimming SA’s performance manager, Dean Price, whose squad trains at Ellis Park. He has not been able to use the facility for some time and, with the trials for the Commonwealth Games looming, the swimmers need a 50m pool to train in.

Staff members at the pool do their best to keep the temperature consistent, but at times the boilers fail and the pool temperature, which should be maintained at 26°C, drops to 20°C or even lower.

Price said: “It’s the best facility in Johannesburg and the only international one here, for that matter. But there has been no maintenance for a while now, so it’s as if the swimming community is homeless.

“It’s having a crippling effect on the development of swimming. It is sad that athletes are required to perform, but there are no facilities available to them. What is sad is young swimmers dedicate their lives to the sport, but they do not get the support to achieve their goals.

“I find it strange that preference has been given to the Linden pool, which I hear is going to be fixed for the second year running, while no work is being done at Ellis Park.”

Olympic gold medallist Ryk Neethling said it is upsetting that the facility he once used is no longer available for swimmers.

“It was one of the reasons I had to move to Pretoria, even though Ellis Park is one of the best facilities I trained at. It is great for development, as it’s close to the city centre and is a high-performance centre for the top guys. I was involved with the council to improve the facility, as this is really where development is,” said Neethling.

Another former Olympic swimmer, Mandy Loots, who still trains at Ellis Park, shared Neethling’s sentiments.

“It was the pool where I formed my Olympic dreams. Back then, it was always in perfect condition. To see how they struggle to get the temperature right for upcoming Olympic swimmers is just so sad,” said Loots.

Swimmers in Johannesburg battled throughout the winter season, as all the other heated pools – Coronationville, Linden and Pioneer Park – were closed for renovations.

Nico Laubscher, Johannesburg City Council deputy director of maintenance, admitted that only 50% of the pools in Johannesburg had opened at the start of September.

“We wish we could deal with all the problems at once, but we work to a budget. We know the problems at Ellis Park and we have the budget this year for the heating system to be serviced.

“The lanes will also be replaced and work will be done on the timing devices,” he said.

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