SA coach wants to know why too few US-based swimmers are succeeding

Graham Hill (SA National Swimming Coach) during the Sports Industry Summit 2012 at Deloitte Offices on October 25, 2012 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Graham Hill (SA National Swimming Coach) during the Sports Industry Summit 2012 at Deloitte Offices on October 25, 2012 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Lee Warren / Gallo Images

Swimming SA (SSA) is looking into why so few of the nation’s swimmers based in the US are failing to convert to elite level‚ national coach Graham Hill said on Monday.

Nine swimmers qualified for the world championships during the national trials in Durban last week.

The good news is that four of them were women‚ and every single one is trained locally — not one of the American females made the cut-off to get to the international showpiece in Gwangju‚ South Korea.

Of the five male qualifiers‚ three are in the US.

“We are looking at how many swimmers we’ve got in America‚ and when they left us what condition they were in‚” said Hill.

“When they come back they’re not stepping up to the next level and that doesn’t add up for me.”

Olympic medallists Penny Heyns and Marianne Kriel were among the last batch of US-based women to qualify for the Olympics.

The SA women who qualified for Beijing 2008 and London 2012 were all trained locally (no women qualified in 2004 and 2016).

Roland Schoeman‚ Ryk Neethling and Lyndon Ferns‚ all medallists at Athens 2004‚ were the last US-based men to win silverware for SA.

Of the four female qualifiers last week‚ three were also inside the Olympic qualifying marks they will need to achieve next year to get to the Tokyo 2020 Games.

That includes 19-year-old Kaylene Corbett‚ who decided to train with double Commonwealth Games breaststroke champion Tatjana Schoenmaker at Tuks last year rather than take up a US scholarship.

Erin Gallagher‚ who trains with Hill‚ is the third‚ cracking her times in the 100m butterfly and 100m freestyle. Nathania van Niekerk‚ also at Tuks‚ must lose a second in the 200m backstroke by next year.

Brad Tandy (50m freestyle) and Ryan Coetzee (100m butterfly) are both finished with the collegiate system‚ and they both achieved their qualifying marks in the heats of their events‚ as opposed to the evening finals.

Christopher Reid‚ who qualified for the Rio Olympics in the 100m backstroke‚ made it in the 200m race this time‚ missing the mark in the shorter race.

Chad Le Clos‚ who spent much of his career in SA‚ is training mostly in Europe these days.

All four were inside the Olympic marks required in 2020.

Ayrton Sweeney is the only one training in SA‚ although he still needs to improve by nearly two seconds in the 400m individual medley if he wants to get to Tokyo next year.

Hill said he would probably field some relay teams at the world championships‚ which would require him to take possibly four extra swimmers.

He wants to enter teams in the men’s and women’s 4x100m medley‚ the men’s 4x100m freestyle and both mixed-gender relays.

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