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Coach Hill upbeat as SA’s swimming stars start nationals

South Africa’s head swimming coach Graham Hill is expecting “fast times and further depth” to emerge from the National Aquatic Championships which get under way in Durban on Monday.

The six-day competition at the Kings Park Aquatics Centre will double up as the official qualification event for the 2014 Commonwealth Games to be held in Glasgow.

“It’s Commonwealth Games trials and there’s obviously a lot at stake for the swimmers,” Hill, right, told Sapa on Sunday. “They’re competing for places on the team. “I expect it to be a quick meet and I think we can come out of the week with a lot of depth, so for instance, we could have two or three qualifiers for a few of the events.”

Olympic gold medallists Chad le Clos, 21, and Cameron van der Burgh, 25, headline the field, with the former bidding to qualify for an impressive seven Olympic races.

Le Clos, who famously beat American Michael Phelps to the 200-metre butterfly gold at London 2012, will be hoping to reach the same event this year, as well as the 100m butterfly, the 100m and 200m freestyle, the 200 and 400m individual medley and the 200m backstroke.

Van der Burgh ÔÇô the world record holder in the 100m breaststroke, which he also won gold for in London ÔÇô swims in the same event in Durban where newcomer Brad Tandy will also be aiming to make his mark.

“There’s a few more exciting guys now, the likes of Dylan Bosch coming off a good meet in America in the last few days,” Hill said. “Then we’re going to look to Cameron, Chad and Roland (Schoeman), who are the core of our team and who we expect to produce the times.

“Hopefully they’ll be backed up by some exciting newcomers.”

Other elite swimmers hoping for a place in the South Africa squad for the 23 July to 4 August Commonwealth Games will be veteran Olympian Schoeman, in the 50m freestyle, as well as Myles Brown, in the 200, 400 and 1 500m freestyle.

Sebastien Rousseau will be searching for qualifying times in five races ÔÇô the 200m butterfly, the 200 and 400m individual medley, the 200m freestyle and the 200m backstroke.

On the women’s side, the country’s top female swimmer, 24-year-old Karin Prinsloo, lines up in five events, the 100, 200 and 400m freestyle, along with the 100 and 200m backstroke races.

“Karin has done well to make a name for herself,” Hill said. “Hopefully a few more will come through. There are some knocking on the door now, so it will be interesting and exciting to watch what unfolds.”

Other swimmers like Michelle Weber (800 and 1 500m freestyle), Jessica Ashley-Cooper (100 and 200m backstroke, 50m freestyle) and Trudi Maree (50m freestyle) will also be looking for qualification.

Hill said he was expecting 15 to 20 swimmers to qualify this week, a similar number to London.

The event also includes multi-disability races, which feature the likes of Paralympians Kevin Paul, Charl Bouwer, Challis Wright, Hendri Herbst and Craig Groenewald.

Morning heats start at 9.30am, while the finals begin at 6pm daily.


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