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The timing of the SA Short Course Swimming Championships may not have been ideal for the country’s elite swimmers, but Olympic Games fever saw several positive results on day one at the GC Jolliffe Pool in Pietermaritzburg on Thursday.
Despite chilly conditions in the KwaZulu-Natal capital, there was strong public support as the local community came out to cheer Olympic heroes Chad le Clos, Roland Schoeman and Karin Prinsloo, who competed while images of the London Olympics were shown on a large screen.
Durbanite Le Clos didn’t disappoint as he topped the times in the 200m freestyle final ahead of another local, Darian Townsend, and both finished within the qualifying time for the Fina World Short Course Championships in Turkey in December.
Another local who went to London, Leith Shankland, fell short of the qualifying mark of 1:46.59.
The selection criteria for Turkey requires the swimmers to meet the qualifying time and finish in the top two in the finals.
However, should any swimmer fail to achieve the qualifying time in the final, their qualifying time from the semis or heats may be considered, said Dean Price, the High Performance Manager for Swimming SA.
Olympian Darren Murray of Tuks was quickest in the 100m backstroke semis with a qualifying time of 52.84, which he will have to repeat in Friday’s final. Olympic gold medallist Cameron van der Burgh was in town, but he will only take to the water on Friday in the 50m breaststroke.
Among the women, Central Gauteng’s Mandy Loots, KZN’s Kyna Pereira and Megan Stephens (CG) topped the podium in the 200m butterfly event, but Western Province’s Ianthe van der Westhuizen, Samantha Gunther (CG) and Michaela Barnes of EP also dipped comfortably below the qualifying time. However, only the top two booked their tickets to Turkey.
Others who seized their spots were Jessica Pengelly and Kathryn Meaklim, who easily slipped under the qualifying time of 4:42.39.
With the top swimmers having just returned from London, Price said their priority was simply to make the qualifying time.
“For most of them it’s a bit of an anti-climax and they’ll just aim for the qualifying time, but for the public it’s a chance to see their heroes and for the next generation it’s a chance to show their potential. Being the first day it was a good start.
“The Olympics have shown that we can be a very strong swimming force. It gets the youngsters motivated and then we have to get the programmes in place to support them so that we see more Chads and Camerons come through for 2016,” he said.
The event runs until Sunday with a packed programme from the morning heats to the finals each night. – The Mercury