Swimmers chasing medals in dress rehearsal for Olympic Games

Despite the nation’s medal hopes in Paris expanding a little beyond the pool, the SA swimming squad’s performance at the World Aquatics Championships over the next week will be a good indication of what South Africa can expect at this year’s Olympic Games. As was the case at the Tokyo Games three years ago, the country’s top swimmers are likely to lead the medal charge in the French capital, and their campaign in Doha will be a dress rehearsal of sorts for the Paris showpiece. Former world record holder Tatjana Schoenmaker remains the country’s best medal hope at the Games, and…

Despite the nation’s medal hopes in Paris expanding a little beyond the pool, the SA swimming squad’s performance at the World Aquatics Championships over the next week will be a good indication of what South Africa can expect at this year’s Olympic Games.

As was the case at the Tokyo Games three years ago, the country’s top swimmers are likely to lead the medal charge in the French capital, and their campaign in Doha will be a dress rehearsal of sorts for the Paris showpiece.

Former world record holder Tatjana Schoenmaker remains the country’s best medal hope at the Games, and though she won’t be competing at the World Championships gala starting in Doha on Sunday, the double Olympic medallist will fancy her chances in Paris.

And the rest of SA’s best swimmers, who will be looking to build momentum towards the Olympics, will be in action in the Qatari capital.

Building up

It has been five years since Chad le Clos stepped on the podium at the World Championships and eight years since he added to his career haul at the Olympics, and he will be hoping to display good form in Doha.

Similarly, a trio of rising young stars will be eager to gain some confidence ahead of their Olympic charge later this year.

Lara van Niekerk, Pieter Coetze and Matthew Sates are all under the age of 21, and if they can prove themselves in Doha, they could  be among the favourites in Paris.

Swimmer Lara van Niekerk
Lara van Niekerk with the two gold medals she earned at the 2022 Commonwealth Games. Picture: Lee Warren/Gallo Images

Outside the pool, South Africa’s medal opportunities at the Olympics might be more limited than we would like.

The national athletics team haven’t earned a single medal at a major global championship since 2017, and they might be scratching for podium places once again, led by consistent sprinter Akani Simbine, comeback star Wayde van Niekerk and a couple of sprint relay teams.

The Blitzboks should also have a chance in the rugby sevens tournament, and there will always be outside medal hopes across the various sports, but the reality is that the SA team might struggle to improve on the three medals which were bagged in Tokyo.

Sufficient hope

The national squad have earned medals at all 19 editions of the Games in which the country has competed since 1908, and it is unlikely that run will be broken in Paris, with enough medal hopes to suggest the SA squad will reach the podium again. But with other codes battling to make waves, all eyes will be on the pool ahead of the showpiece.

With a handful of potential contenders in the national team, if the swimmers can stick up their hands in Doha, we’ll have a lot more to shout about in the build-up to Paris.