Johannesburg – South African swimmers will get only one shot at qualifying for the Rio Olympic Games and that’s at the SA Swimming Championships and Olympic trials, starting today at the Kings Park Aquatics Centre in Durban.
Six swimmers have posted qualifying times since the beginning of December, but this will count for nothing if they cannot reproduce those times throughout the week-long championships.
The championships are expected to be dominated by the usual suspects, while a few performances this year suggests some new names will be added to the list of Olympians.
Chief among the stalwarts is Chad le Clos, who has achieved qualifying times in four events – his favoured 100m and 200m butterfly events, while adding the 100m and 200m freestyle to his repertoire.
The double Olympic medallist dropped the 100m freestyle from his programme for the championships and will take a stab at qualifying for the splash-and-dash 50m freestyle.
The 23-year-old opened his season at the first leg of the Swimming SA Grand Prix in Nelspruit with a superb swim in the 100m butterfly, posting 51.82 seconds – the second-fastest time so far this year.
At the second leg in Durban, Le Clos clocked qualifying times in the 200m freestyle and 200m butterfly: 1:47.54 and 1:56.42.
Le Clos brought the fourth and final leg in Stellenbosch to a climax when he met the standard in the 100m freestyle, touching the wall in 48.92.
He also posted a season’s best of 1:47.22 in the 200m freestyle, while he again managed a qualifying time in the 200m butterfly by clocking 1:56.60.
Olympic gold medallist Cameron van der Burgh demonstrated his class with the second-fastest time so far this year in the 100m breaststroke at the Swim Open Stockholm in Sweden at the end of last month.
His time of 59.61 seconds was below the qualifying time of 1:00.57, and just six hundredths of a second slower than British arch-rival Adam Peaty’s world leading time.
Van der Burgh will also be looking to qualify for the 200m breaststroke, where he would go up against Ayrton Sweeney, who made his World Championships debut in Kazan, Russsia, last year.
The former world-record holder’s time of 2:11.94 in Stockholm was just short of the Olympic qualifying time of 2:11.66.
Swimming icon Roland Schoeman will attempt to become the first South African to make it five OIympic Games.
He will be racing in the 50m and 100m freestyle in Durban.
Schoeman will go up against Le Clos, and Brad Tandy, who posted an Olympic qualifying time of 21.87 in the 50m freestyle in December.
Last month, Chris Reid met the qualifying mark in the 100m backstroke, clocking 54.13 seconds in Atlanta.
Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Sebastien Rousseau will take on Le Clos in the 200m butterfly and will feature in the 200m and 400m individual medley.
Myles Brown will be competing in the 100m, 200m and 400m freestyle.
Dylan Bosch is also looking for an Olympic spot, and is going into the championships with the second-fastest time in the 200m butterfly.
He is also the favourite in the 200m individual medley.
Tatjana Schoenmaker is the only woman swimmer who has posted an Olympic qualifying time this year.
London Olympian Karin Prinsloo will be looking to regain some lost form and book her place for the Games.
She will be racing in the 200m backstroke, and the 100m, 200m and 400m freestyle events.