Durban – “Would he or wouldn’t he.” Would Roland Schoeman rise to the occasion and qualify for a record fifth Olympic Games on the final day of the SA Swimming Championships here yesterday?
The 2016 Rio Games proved a bridge too far for the 35-year-old swimming icon as Schoeman had to look on as Brad Tandy, 11 years his junior, made his ascent in the men’s 50 metres freestyle.
Tandy posted the exact same time he swam in Friday’s heats, clocking 22.13 seconds to finish well ahead of Douglas Erasmus (22.55) and Schoeman (22.75).
Erasmus will join Tandy at the August Games courtesy of his time in his heat, which was 1/100th of a second below the Olympic qualifying time of 22.27sec.
The reality of going to his maiden Olympics had not yet sunk in shortly after the race as Tandy’s lifelong dream became a reality.
“I knew it was going to be a fast race. I was honestly targeting going below the 22-second barrier because I know it has never been done in this pool, which would have been a nice cherry on top,” Tandy said.
One of South Africa’s most decorated Olympians, Schoeman put on a brave face but conceded it was a bitter pill to swallow.
“I would have loved to have gone to Rio, I would have loved to have walked the opening ceremony, I would have loved to have been the flag-bearer,” Schoeman said.
“Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t and today just wasn’t one of those days. I thought I could turn it around and bring it back and 22.2 is really not a fast time.
“My hat goes off to Brad for doing the qualifying time tonight. He is an immensely talented guy. I wish I was going to be there racing with and against him, but it is what it is.”
Tandy shared Schoeman’s disappointment that they would not share the experience at the Rio Games and paid tribute to the age-defying multiple Olympic medallist.
“As great as that is (beating Schoeman) to do, it is hard because I want him there with me in Rio, but it’s something that I never thought I’d have the opportunity to do,” Tandy said.
“I mean, he’s been swimming for so many years and I thought by the time I would get even close to his level, he would have retired, but he still has the speed and the power.”
Distance star Matthew Meyer became the 10th individual swimmer to claim a spot at the Games and will be the youngest member in the swimming team after qualifying in the 1500m freestyle.
Buoyed by his time in Stellenbosch earlier this year when he stopped two seconds short of the Olympic qualifier, the 18-year-old clocked 15:09.58 yesterday.
Spearheaded by Myles Brown, the men’s 4x200m freestyle relay team of Chad le Clos, Sebastien Rousseau and Calvyn Justus also booked a ticket to Rio by dipping below the estimated time of 7:13.7.
With his place already secured in the 400m freestyle, Brown missed the mark in the 200m but succeeded on the first leg of the relay with a split of 1:47.53.
– The Sunday Independent