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Hill has modest hopes for South Africa’s ‘rebuilt’ swimming team

July 11, 2013
Graham Hill and Chad le Clos

Graham Hill and Chad le Clos

By the time the Fina World Championships begin in Barcelona in two weeks’ time, it will be a year since South Africa put on a stellar show in the swimming pool at the London Olympic Games.

But the team has found itself relying more than ever on the old guard, plus current stars Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh, for medals in Spain. Le Clos brought home gold and silver medals, while Van der Burgh took gold in the London pool.

The South African team has gathered in Durban this week for a pre-tournament camp geared at getting in a few last-minute racing practices before the trip to Europe.

Head coach Graham Hill’s expectations were somewhat modest, if not subdued. “I’m going to be dead honest, we are going with a young team, there’s a lot of inexperience. We are relying on our experienced swimmers — Chad le Clos, Cameron van der Burgh, Gerhard Zandberg and Roland Schoeman — to bring us medals. And they should be able to bring us medals.

“It has been a bit of a rebuild since last year’s London Olympics, because we had a lot of swimmers retire. We had a lot of overseas-based swimmers that have stopped swimming,” Hill said.

Van der Burgh and Schoeman, who are training overseas, plus a few others in the 17-member swimming team are not part of the six-day training camp, but will link up with the team in Spain.

Hill, meanwhile, does not see the women pushing strongly for medals at the championships either because of the number of new caps in the team.

The silver lining, however, comes in the form of promising 15-year-old swimmer Marlies Ross, the youngest member of the team, who it is hoped will benefit from competing at the highest level for the first time.

“There are a lot of young girls in the team. We are not expecting them to bring medals, we are not putting them under pressure to perform. They need to perform to the best of their ability and not to be put on a stage and be expected to win medals — they are not at that level yet,” Hill said.

“We hope that these championships will give them the experience they need to compete at the highest level. And we also hope to unearth an elite girl swimmer. We’re keeping our eyes on Marlies Ross, who is swimming quite well at the moment.”

BD

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