The selection of the first black South African swimmer for an Olympic team almost went unnoticed in the hullabaloo after it was announced that Oscar Pistorius had been included in the same squad, but you suspect Darren Murray would rather have it that way.
The 21-year-old backstroke swimmer is being taken to London as one of the six athletes selected with a nod towards the 2016 Games rather than 2012. There are three swimmers – Murray, Trudi Maree (50m freestyle) and Jessica Roux (marathon), 110m hurdler Lehann Fourie, kayaker Tiffany Kruger and weightlifter Jean Greeff. Murray, who is currently in Europe with the South African swimming squad, does not much like the term “development”, as he told sports journalist Manfred Seidler on the Tuks website back in 2009. He had been selected for the World Championships in Rome in 2009 Rome and was chosen by Swimming South Africa as a “future potential” with the aim of giving him as much international exposure as possible.
“I hated it,” he said then. “But then I had a long chat to my coach, Igor Omalchenko, and realized I need to make the most of it and use it as a learning experience. It still rankles though. I would have preferred to have qualified.”
Murray attended Bergvliet High School, the alma mater of Achmat Hassiem, the Paralympic swimmer who lost his foot in a shark attack, but moved to the Tuks Sport School on a Swimming South Africa scholarship. He matriculated in 2009, but his time at the school was well spent. He brought his time for the 200m backstroke down by three seconds n 18 months, was third in the 2008 World Youth Long Course Championships in Mexico in the 100m backstroke, and, according to Seidler, would have done better had he not had food poisoning.
At the World Championships in Shanghai last year, he finished second in his first heat of the 200m backstroke, finishing in a personal best of 1:58.73, finishing strongly in the final 50m. He just missed out on the semifinals because he was 18th fastest overall, but it was a good step: “My previous best was in Rome in 2009 with the faster suit, so I am very happy. I just went out there with no expectations and prayed.”
Swimming South Africa mailed me through his profile yesterday. His favourite movie is “Candy”, a 2006 Australian romantic comedy starring Heath Ledger; his favourite food is lasagne; motto – “let love rule”; he’d like to have dinner with “god, the devil and Leonardo da Vinci”; and his pet hate is, or, are, “people who value themselves too much”.
On Wednesday Swimming South Africa and Sascoc showed that they have placed an enormous amount of value in Murray. London could be the start of the making of a true contender.