SA pin hopes on swimmers

| September 4, 2011 | 0 Comments

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South African swimmer Cameron van der Burgh.

Maputo, Mozambique – South Africa‘s swimmers will take to the pool at the All Africa Games on Monday with the burden of being the country’s biggest hope of winning the most medals.

It is, however, a challenge they have accepted with open arms having finished first in the swimming pool at the previous Games in Algerian city of Algiers in 2007, collecting a total of 53 medals that included 25 gold, 16 silver and 12 bronze medals.

The swimmers have immense expectations on their shoulders since they have in the past been the country’s biggest medal winners and wont be different when they are in action from Monday until Saturday.

Despite sending a strong contingent, swimming coach Igor Omeltchenko believes that it’s not the strongest team they could have fielded in the continental showpiece.

“I don’t want to be negative but our top swimmers did not come,” said Omeltchenko.

“There are other strong swimmers from other countries but I believe we will do well and get quite a few medals.”

The team suffered setbacks with withdrawals from Gerhard Zandberg and Roland Schoeman in the last two weeks while George du Rand and Chanelle van Wyk were not available.

South Africa are regarded as the swimming kings and queens of Africa as they boast with 30 of the 40 continental records.

World record holder Cameron van der Burgh, who won bronze medals in the 50m and 100m breaststroke at the recent Fina World Championships in Shanghai, will be the highest profile men’s swimmer at the swimming gala.

Commonwealth and World Short Course gold medallist Chad Le Clos in the 200m butterfly will also be participating in his first All African Games.

The 19-year-old Le Clos still needs to replicate his form in the short-course swimming pool to the long course.

The South African men’s greatest challenge will come from Kenyan brothers Jason and David Dunford, with Jason the defending champion in the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly events.

South African serial medallist Mandy Loots will once again be a major contender in the seven events she will be swinning in.

Loots won three gold medals at the previous Games in the 50, 100 and 200m butterfly and will be swimming in the same fields as well as the 50, 100 and 200m backstroke along with the 200m individual medley.

Compatriot Suzaan van Biljon finished the Games in Algeria with three gold medals in the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke.

The team is boosted by the inclusion of 21-year-old Karin Prinsloo, who like her seniors has a knack for winning medals.

She will be swimming in the 50m and 100m freestyle, the 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke as well as three relays.

Prinsloo said Olympic gold medallist and world record holder Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe would post the greatest threat in the women’s events.

“I am quite nervous to swim against her (Coventry) but I will see how it goes,” she said.

“She does not only swim backstroke but freestyle as well, so all the women will be careful of her.”

While South Africa had a host of talent, the SA team management said they were envious of the swimming complex at the Zimpeto National Stadium.

The newly built facilities were hailed as the best in Africa sporting two Olympic sized swimming pools.

Meanwhile, team South African won their first medals at the Games with the triathletes dominating proceedings early on Sunday.

Erhard Wolfaardt won the men’s event with Wian Sullwad finishing third, while Carlyn Catherine clinched gold with Andrea Steyn finishing behind her in the women’s event.

South Africa is leading the medal table at this early stage of the Games with four with Namibia in second place with a silver medal and Mauritius third with a bronze medal. – Sapa

Culled from :Here

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