Apart from Van der Burgh and Le Clos‚ it was a bad night for SA swimming

14 April 2016 - 13:41 By David Isaacson

When South Africa scooped the 4x100m relay at the 2004 Athens Olympics‚ commentators predicted the golden success would unleash a flood of freestylers at home.How wrong they were.SA will almost certainly fail to field a men’s 4x100m freestyle relay team at an Olympics for the first time in 20 years come the Rio Games in August.Only two swimmers dipped below 50 seconds in the 100m freestyle at the SA championships in Durban on Wednesday night‚ with Douglas Erasmus going fastest in 49.85sec - slower than the 49.54 personal best he achieved in the morning heats.Chad Le Clos makes a splash on his 24th birthdayHis Tuks teammate Caydon Muller was second-fastest in 49.90.There’s a yawning gap between them and the 48.99 Olympic qualifying time they need in Thursday night’s final if they want to do this event in Brazil.That’s nothing compared to the chasm between them and Australia‚ who had 13 swimmers breaking 50 seconds in their heats at their national championships recently‚ three of them going under 49. In the semifinals 14 went below 50.No hard feelings among friends vying for sole Rio Olympics diving berthIn 2004‚ SA had three sub-49ers - Roland Schoeman‚ Ryk Neethling and Lyndon Ferns‚ and they still found a fourth‚ Darian Townsend‚ who could break 50.In 2008 and 2012‚ the SA relay team made the final at the Olympics.But even head coach Graham Hill has all but given up on this relay team.He will have the runner-up and the next three finishers from Thursday night’s final do the relay time trial‚ and quite frankly they will need a miracle.The country’s fastest freestyler is Chad Le Clos - who on Wednesday night won the 200m butterfly in 1min 55.04sec‚ the world’s third-fastest time so far this year - but he will be saved for the fly leg of the more realistic 4x100m medley relay qualifying bid‚ along with the soon-to-be-crowned 100m freestyle champion.'It sucks‚' says Zorzi after missing out on Rio breaststroke berthSchoeman ruled himself out of the relay qualification attempts when he withdrew from the 100m freestyle heats in the morning‚ apparently to focus on his specialist 50m freestyle.If he doesn’t book his ticket for Brazil in that event‚ his dream of making a fifth Olympics will be over.Le Clos was content despite not attaining the sub-1:55 he was hoping for. “I felt good. I was able to think on the last 20 metres so that means I wasn’t so fatigued.“I’m three seconds off the world record that I think it will take to win in Rio. That’s 0.7 on every 50m.”Chad Le Clos and Co close out 200m freestyle finalCameron van der Burgh showed his delight by clenching his fist after posting a personal best and Olympic qualifying 2:11.10 in the 200m breaststroke semifinals.Apart from the two Olympic champions‚ it was a bad night for SA swimming.Roland Schoeman disqualifies himself from Olympic relay contentionKarin Prinsloo‚ who wept when she qualified for the 2012 Olympics‚ cried again on Wednesday night after failing to make it in the 200m freestyle‚ her last realistic chance of getting to Rio.“The hardest is knowing I’m so much faster than the qualifying time‚” sobbed the veteran‚ who has been hampered by illness and injury the past two years.The total of six individual qualifiers has remained at six for the past two days. All of them are men.In 2004‚ SA had no women qualifying for the Olympics‚ but at least they had male freestylers back then. - TMG Sport

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