While the list of top-flight qualifiers was limited to a quartet of swimmers, a total of 29 individuals stuck up their hands for places in the national team for the Commonwealth Games during the six-day SA trials which came to a close in Durban on Thursday night.
In the final evening session, Neil Fair was the only swimmer to add his name to the preliminary squad, taking third place in the men’s 200m individual medley contest in 2:04.28. Jarryd Baxter (2:00.99) and Ayrton Sweeney (2:01.64) ticked off additional boxes by earning gold and silver, after qualifying for other disciplines earlier in the week. Other athletes who met the required marks in extra events, having previously joined the list of qualifiers at the trials, included Dune Coetzee (4:14.53) and Kristin Bellingan (4:17.74) who grabbed the top two steps of the podium in the women’s 400m freestyle battle.
Only four swimmers achieved the A-standard times in their respective events during the trials, with sprinter Brad Tandy, Olympic medallist Cameron van der Burgh, medley star Sweeney and breaststroke specialist Tatjana Schoenmaker making the grade in their specialist events. Another 25 individuals, however, managed to bolster the squad by meeting the B-standards for the multi-sport showpiece. A total of 47 qualifying performances were set in Olympic events throughout the week-long national spectacle. World 200m butterfly champion Chad le Clos was the best of the qualifiers, as he prepared to spearhead the South African charge at the Gold Coast Games. He achieved the standards in four events, as well as the non-Olympic 50m butterfly.
Erin Gallagher, meanwhile, led an impressive resurgence by the nation’s elite women, chasing down the marks in three standard disciplines and two non-Olympic sprint events. The SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc) was due to unveil the national team for the Commonwealth Games early next year, with the swimming squad expected to play a key role in the chase for medals at the Gold Coast spectacle in April.