Princess rolls out red carpet again for SA swimming team
SOUTH Africa's swimmers will again do their winter training at a camp in Monaco, head coach Graham Hill said yesterday before jetting to Australia with a young team in tow.
Princess Charlene of Monaco hosted Hill's SA squad before it went to the London Olympics, at which Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh won two golds and a silver medal to give South Africa their best pool performance at any Games.
Hill confirmed that the team would return to Monte Carlo before the world championships starting in Barcelona in late July.
The South African team will compete against China and Australia in Perth on Friday and Saturday in a tri-nations gala in which it is guaranteed R225000 in prize money for third place. The winners will pocket R900000 and the runners-up R450000.
Shaun Adriaanse, chief executive of cash- strapped Swimming SA, said the winnings would go into development.
High-performance manager Dean Price said the Perth-bound team - which does not include Le Clos or Van der Burgh, who are injured - featured youngsters earmarked for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
The federation's analysis of the London Games showed that male medal winners were aged 20 to 24, and female medal winners 15 to 18. As a result, it hand-picked boys of 16 to 19 and girls of 11 to 14 who should be at their peak in Rio.
"We've adopted a very aggressive attitude," said Price. "They are in the team because they deserve to be. If someone faster comes along, they'll take their place."
Johannesburg schoolgirl Nathania van Niekerk is the youngest to go to Perth: she turns 14 on Tuesday next week.
The oldest, at 24, is Suzaan van Biljon, who rediscovered her passion for the sport in London.
"I was surprised by the times I did there; it gave me my fire back," she said, but pointed out that she is coming off a lengthy stretch out of the water after being injured and ill.
Charl Crous, a backstroker who bombed at the Games, said he had learned from his mistakes.