Hill happy despite medal shortage

Graham Hill (Gallo Images)
Graham Hill (Gallo Images)

Durban - South Africa's national swimming coach Graham Hill insisted it was difficult to be disappointed despite the country's moderate showing at the FINA World Short-course Championships in Doha last week.

Apart from the record-breaking four-gold medal haul by star Chad le Clos, Team SA managed just one other podium finish, a silver for Olympic champion Cameron van der Burgh in the 50 metres breaststoke.

"When we left I always said we were hoping to challenge for eight or nine medals in the various events," Hill said upon arrival in Durban on Monday.

"We were very unlucky on the third day when we ended with three fourth places. Cameron got a fourth, the 200 metres free relay got a fourth and so did Sebastien (Rousseau).

"On another day, those could have all been third places, so that's three medals lost right there."

Hill admitted that the relay result was particularly painstaking after the South African team, which also included Myles Brown, Leith Shankland and Le Clos faded badly at the death, eventually losing out to United States, Italy and Russia respectively.

"We unlucky in some of the races, so there is a bit of disappointment, but we're a young team and the future really looks bright."

Hill was named the International Swimming Federation (Fina) coach of the year last week, an award that shadowed Le Clos being crowned the world's best swimmer for 2014.

He said the award and South Africa's overall display over the past week made was very encouraging.

"Chad winning four gold and Cameron winning a silver, that was fantastic," said Hill.

"The youngsters on the team swimming personal best times, so that was really good. And then obviously Chad winning international swimmer of the year and myself being named coach of the year, we were really honoured to win such major awards.

"It just capped what was a good World Champs and another good year for us."

Olympic gold medallist Le Clos made history on the final night at The Hamad Aquatic Centre in the Qatar capital, when he became the first swimmer to win the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly.

His victory in his specialist event brought his total tally to four gold medals, the biggest medal haul by an individual South African swimmer at the global showpiece, surpassing the three gold medals swimming legend Ryk Neethling won at the 2006 edition in Shanghai.

Hill felt the swimming sensation was fully deserved of his success, adding: "I've never had my doubts about him and he deserves all the success he is achieving.

"Next year is a big year, he has to put in all the hard yards before the Olympics and that will determine how well he does in 2016." Le Clos was due to arrive back in South Africa on Tuesday.

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