Twelve-year-old Olwethu Ndlovu of the uMlazi Sharks Aquatics Club holds the six medals she won earlier this month at Swimming South Africa’s Regional Championships. 
Picture: Sbonelo Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)
Twelve-year-old Olwethu Ndlovu of the uMlazi Sharks Aquatics Club holds the six medals she won earlier this month at Swimming South Africa’s Regional Championships. Picture: Sbonelo Ngcobo/African News Agency (ANA)
The uMlazi Sharks win 31 championships medals
The uMlazi Sharks win 31 championships medals
Durban - “Swimming with a passion, from township to Olympics” – this is the slogan that pushes and inspires swimmers from the uMlazi Sharks Aquatics Club, which recently returned with 31 medals from Swimming South Africa’s Regional Championships in Sasolburg.
Sixty-five clubs from across South Africa, as well as from Kenya, competed in the championships, and out of these clubs uMlazi Sharks Aquatics Club finished in the top 10, taking 8th place.

The club boasts coaches who have represented South Africa in competitions internationally, and has now set its sights on greater achievements.

It has 95 registered swimmers, and has produced Phindile Makhaye, who represented South Africa at the Fina World Aquatics Championships in Hungary in the synchronised swimming event.

Founding member and one of the coaches, Khulani Mabaso, says there is always much excitement among their swimmers, who are aged between six and 18, when they compete in events, even at the Kings Park Stadium pool.

“They compete alongside swimmers who are not from disadvantaged communities; this builds their confidence and says to them that no matter where you come from, you can do anything and end up anywhere,” he said.

Mabaso said the club’s feat in Sasolburg, where they competed against better equipped clubs, said a lot about the talent of their swimmers.

“Being in the championships motivates and encourages them. It has made them see that the Olympic Games are not just a far-off dream, but a reality that is obtainable with hard work.”

The club was established in 2003, and is affiliated to KwaZulu-Natal Aquatics.

The team has nine training sessions a week, and in February some of the swimmers take part in the Midmar Mile.

Mabaso said while they received accolades and produced top achievers, financial support remained a challenge.

“It would be nice to have a camp inland because it’s hard when we go and compete in inland areas, as we are used to training in a coastal area.

“When we went to Sasolburg we found that the Kenyan team had arrived two weeks before the competition in order to prepare and acclimatise.

“We don’t have the financial support to do that; we arrive the day before the competition and the following day we compete,” Mabaso said.

The club’s secretary, Phila Hlongwa, said they were grateful to Swimming South Africa for its support, and were very proud of their swimmers, especially those who had gone on to join the South African Navy and Army and commercial diving clubs.

“Honestly, swimming as a sport can give back and uplift young people from communities. We really appreciate the work that our instructors and coaches are doing out of the goodness of their hearts,” Hlongwa said.

The chairperson of the club, Jabulani Zondi, said they would like to see more support from parents.

“It makes a difference for a child, when they are competing, to do so knowing that their parents are watching them from the stands,” Zondi said.