SA swimming elite to compete in world event despite funding crunch
SOUTH Africa’s elite swimmers will participate in the Fina World Aquatics Championships in Barcelona in July, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) confirmed on Tuesday.
However, sports federation Swimming SA said lesser-known athletes might need to cover some of the costs if they hoped to take part in the event.
Sascoc CEO Tubby Reddy said the governing body would cover the expenses of all athletes enrolled in its Operation Excellence programme for the global championships.
"When we got back from the London Olympic Games last year, Swimming SA indicated that its main sponsor, Telkom, had pulled out, and that it would have functional issues financially," Mr Reddy said.
"We have retained all Olympic medallists and finalists on the Operation Excellence programme from the London Games to this point, and we will now reassess the athletes on the list."
Mr Reddy said Sascoc would cover the expenses of any athletes in the next phase of the programme, but Swimming SA would need to find funds to cover the other members of the South African team.
Swimming SA CEO Shaun Adriaanse said the federation hoped to find a commercial sponsor to cover the costs of the athletes excluded from the revamped Operation Excellence programme.
"It’s always a struggle finding major sponsors and we haven’t been able to find a replacement since Telkom decided not to renew its contract," Mr Adriaanse said. "Barring those on (the programme), the athletes might need to make a contribution to ensure their participation."
While the federation’s main focus was swimming, which produced three medals at the London Games, Mr Adriaanse said it also planned to send men’s and women’s water polo squads, a synchronised swimming team and a group of divers to compete in the world championships.
Mr Adriaanse said Swimming SA would be able to cover about 85% of the overall team costs, aside from those on the Operation Excellence list, and that athletes would contribute no more than R3,000 each.
"We have got some funding from (global governing body) Fina, which will help with the costs, and if we can find a corporate sponsor before the championships, the athletes won’t need to contribute," he said.
"Most of the funding we have will go to the swimmers. The athletes in other disciplines, such as the divers who are going to the world championships for the first time, will probably need to contribute more, but it depends on how many athletes qualify."
South Africa finished 25th in the medals table at the previous World Aquatics Championships, in Shanghai in 2011.
Cameron van der Burgh, who is on the Operation Excellence programme, secured a bronze medal in Shanghai. Gerhardus Zandberg bagged the country’s only other medal, another bronze.
It was South Africa’s worst performance at the global showpiece since the 2003 championships, also held in Barcelona, where the team finished 23rd on the table with only one bronze medal.