JOHANNESBURG – The absence of the country’s Commonwealth medallists will shine the limelight on the country’s female swimmers at the SA National Aquatic Championships in Port Elizabeth starting today.
Para-swimmer Christian Sadie will be the only one of the country’s six individual medallists from the recent Gold Coast Games that will be in action at the week-long gala.
South African women’s swimming has been stuck in the doldrums over the last few years but Tatjana Schoenmaker’s 100/200m breaststroke double gold and a few other good results have provided plenty of optimism.
The next generation of female stars have shown glimpses of their potential on Australia’s Gold Coast with Erin Gallagher producing good performances in Australia.
Gallagher will be looking to carry her form from the Games into the championships where she will be the top-ranked female in the 50 and 100m freestyle, the 100m butterfly and the 50m backstroke.
The 19-year-old Gallagher broke Karin Prinsloo’s South African and African 100m freestyle record in the semi-final at the Games posting a time of 54.38 seconds.
She shaved 0.1secs off the previous mark before finishing sixth in the final behind Australian power sisters Bronte and Cate Campbell with a new personal best time of 54.23.
Gallagher finished fifth in the 50m freestyle and seventh in the 50m butterfly in her second appearance at the quadrennial showpiece.
Rebecca Meder, who was the top female at the 2017 championships winning five individual gold medals in the 1 500m, 800m, 200m freestyle, the 400m and 200m Individual Medley, and silver the 400m freestyle, will be looking to keep hold of her handful of titles.
Emily Visagie and Kaylene Corbett, who finished seventh and eighth respectively behind Schoenmaker in the 200m final at the Gold Coast will be fighting for breaststroke supremacy in Port Elizabeth.
The championships will also feature Dune Coetzee and Luan Grobbelaar, who were the South African team’s youngest members at the Games.
The 17-year-old Michael Houlie made a promising debut at the Games where finished sixth in the men’s 50m breaststroke final behind South African champion Cameron van der Burgh with a time of 27.83.
Houlie is the favourite in the 50m and 100m breaststroke while stalwart Ayrton Sweeney is the top-ranked swimmer in the 200m breaststroke and the 400m Individual Medley.
The gala doubles as a selection event for the African Youth Games, the African Swimming Championships, the Youth Olympic Games and the AUSC Region 5 Games later this year.
South Africa’s swimmers also have to prepare for the Fina World Short-Course Championships in Hangzhou, China in December.