GIVEN the trying conditions at the South African Swimming Championships in the past week, swimmers will be given further opportunities to qualify for the Fina World Championships, Swimming SA high-performance manager Dean Price has said.
Two days of the six-day gala, which also served as trials for this year’s world championships, were cancelled because of poor water quality. The programme was subsequently reduced to timed finals, with only one round in each discipline instead of the usual heats, semifinals and finals.
"We are going to give a lot of people opportunities in terms of our selected teams for the world championships and the youth championships," Price said.
"We have a clause which gives (national coach) Graham Hill and me the discretion to include people, and we are going to use that to give people opportunities.
"The conditions were far from perfect. We have to acknowledge that. We had some outstanding swims with Chad le Clos, No1 in the world, with a 51-second swim … (in the 100m butterfly) that is a phenomenal performance on the night (Saturday)," Price said.
Four swimmers posted A-qualifying times for the world championships in five events, while several posted B-qualifying times. Roland Schoeman (50m freestyle), Cameron van der Burgh (100m breaststroke), Myles Brown (800m freestyle) and Chad le Clos (100m and 200m breaststroke) were the only swimmers who met the standard.
"We have a group of about 12 really good youngsters coming up, who we want to groom over the next three years. So, if we get it right, we will have a great Rio (2016 Olympic Games)," Price said.
The swimmers would not be pressured about reaching the mark before the deadline, as times between July 1 2012 and July 1 this year would be considered.
"We believe this has not been ideal and we don’t want to detract from the long-term development of swimming," Price said. "We are going to take some initiative here and give people opportunities to go to the world championships, World Student Games and the World Youth Championships," he said.
"We don’t want to stop people from gaining experience because the conditions weren’t great here."
A major concern at the championships was the women’s swimming, as none posted qualifying times. However, Price said he was encouraged by some of the performances from youngsters such as 14-year-old Nathania van Niekerk and 17-year-old Tara Nicholas, who triumphed in senior events.
"We need to fast-track them now and hopefully in two or three years they are up there," he said.
Price said more work had to be done to ensure the women performed at an international standard. "If you look at the girls, they are not in shape and they don’t look like world-class swimmers and we have to take a stronger stand on getting the girls through."