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Aquatics | SA Swimming

SA women need to toughen up - Neethling

Olympic gold medallist Ryk Neethling believes South African women swimmers need to harden up if they want to challenge for medals at international galas.

"If you compare our women physically to women overseas, they (the overseas swimmers) aren't bigger but they are much stronger," Neethling said at the launch of the 'Get the Girls to Gold' programme in Johannesburg during the week.

"We are years behind the rest of the world and it is about getting into the gymnasium and putting in the hard work and it is about having the right attitude and conditioning."

Double Olympic gold medallist Penny Heyns has for long been the shining example for both men and women's swimmers.

South Africa's greatest women's medal haul came at the 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games when Heyns landed gold in the 100m and 200m breaststroke, while Marianne Kriel claimed bronze in the 100m backstroke.

However, it went backward after that, with Heyns claiming the last women's medal at the 2000 Sydney Games with a bronze in the 100m breaststroke.

South African women's performances at the world long course championships makes for depressing reading as the country has never produced a women's medallist at the global showpiece.

However, South African men's swimming seems to be going though a purple patch following the achievements of Cameron van der Burgh and Chad le Clos at last year's London Olympic Games.

Le Clos famously beat legendary United States swimmer Michael Phelps for the 200m butterfly title and claimed silver in the 100m breaststroke, while Van der Burgh was crowned Olympic champion in the 100m breaststroke in a world-record time.

At the previous world championships in Shanghai in 2011, South Africa returned with three bronze medals courtesy of Van der Burgh and backstroker Gerhard Zandberg.

Neethling said he expected a greater medal haul at the world championships from July 28 to August 4 in Barcelona.

Most of the medals, Neethling said, would come from the non-Olympic events and predicted only three medals in the Olympic events.

"We should win four medals in the 50m backstroke, breaststroke, and butterfly," he said.

"In the 50m breaststroke we should win two medals through Guilio Zorzi and Cameron.

"In the 'fly Roland (Schoeman) should win a medal and in the backstroke I expect Gerhard Zandberg to win a medal."

Neethling said South Africa would only bag three medals in the Olympic events, which carried greater weight with an eye on the Games.

He said South African swimming needed to make a mindshift by focusing on the Olympic rather than the non-Olympic events.

Swimming SA initially decided not to select swimmers for the non-Olympic events – the 50m breaststroke, butterfly and backstroke – for the world championships but this has since fallen by the wayside.

"We have to instil that mindshift in the youngsters and I don't think even think that there should be 50m form strokes (at the younger levels)," Neethling said.

"We have to change the mindset early because it is too late at 18 or 19-years-old."

The South African team will leave for the world championships on Monday.


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