Mission accomplished for Swim SA
South Africa’s swimming team has just completed its most successful Olympic Games since readmission to international sport in 1992.
The swim team at the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona consisted of 10 members, but did not win any medals.
With only seven members (two men and five women) the team produced three medals at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996.
Penny Heyns put South African swimming firmly on the map by winning two gold medals.
She made history as the only woman in the history of the Olympic Games to have won both the 100 and 200m breaststroke events.
Marianne Kriel added a bronze medal to South Africa’s tally in the pool and before London, 1996 was regarded as the most successful outing.
The South African swim team for Sydney Olympics in 2000 consisted of 13 members (seven men, six women) and produced a silver and a bronze medal.
It was Terence Parkin, the deaf swimmer from KZN, who won the first medal for the South African men when he won silver in the 200m breaststroke. Heyns added a bronze in the 100m breaststroke.
At the Athens Olympics in 2004, the “awesome foursome” of Roland Schoeman, Lyndon Ferns, Darian Townsend and Ryk Neethling surprised everyone when they bettered the world record in the final of the 4x100m freestyle to clinch the gold medal.
Schoeman went on to win a silver medal in the men’s 100m freestyle and a bronze in the 50m freestyle. This was a men’s only team and had eight members.
After such a glorious Olympic competition, the 2008 Beijing Games proved an annus horribilis for SA swimming as the aquatics squad failed to bag a single medal with the biggest team ever, consisting of 23 members.
Amid reports of tension in the camp, the swimmers managed to break 18 South African records, but had no medals to show for their efforts.
But this year in London the proud tradition in the pool continued when Cameron van der Burgh became the first South African male swimmer to win a gold medal, in the 100 breaststroke, in a new world record time that set up the most successful Olympic Games in the pool for the 20-member (14 men, six women) swim team.
Sensational Chad le Clos added another gold and a silver to restore South Africa’s pride in the pool.