Budding young swimmers gathered at Garsfontein High School in Pretoria on Wednesday morning for the launch of Swimming South Africa’s High Performance Academy.
The academy, which will be run at the school in collaboration with Royal Fins Aquatics swimming club, is just one of many that Swimming South Africa is planning to launch across the country in order to increase participation in the sport with a view to competing at international level.
Selected as an ambassador for the High Performance Academy was Olympian and Commonwealth Games champion Pieter Coetzé, who was at the launch this week. The Pretoria swimmer is considered one of the top prospects in the country heading to next year’s Olympic Games in Paris.
Speaking at the launch, Coetzé said: “I think the initiative is great for young swimmers and to develop the sport a bit from a young age, because that’s when it’s really got a big impression and when you can really start to fall in love with swimming a bit like I did.
“So I think it’s great to get more young swimmers to train and actually swim more than doing other sports, or rather than stopping swimming to do other sports.”
Also at the launch in Pretoria was Swimming South Africa’s High Performance Manager Dean Price who explained: “Today was a very important day for Swimming South Africa. It was the launch of one of our performance schools in Garsfontein in Pretoria. And this is a huge step, and a very important step, because the direction in which high performance swimming, and South African swimming as a whole, is going is to establish relationships with schools and tertiary institutions.”
GOAL TO ESTABLISH 20 CENTRES AROUND THE COUNTRY
Price explained that Swimming South Africa is forming partnerships with these institutions to make use of their facilities as municipalities and clubs are struggling.
“We see that it’s very hard for municipalities to sustain their structures. We see that private clubs are no longer supporting individual performance squads and training, so the only realistic area where we can keep the sport alive is by having relationships with schools,” he said.
“And this is one of the first relationships where we have established a performance centre in Pretoria, which is a fantastic initiative by both Royal Fins Swimming Club and Garsfontein High School… It’s a massive school, almost a thousand kids and we can give these kids the opportunity of getting into swimming, and not only just getting into swimming but also to be competitive at the highest level.”
Price added that the goal is to establish at least 20 of these types of centres around the country.
“This will give us a huge base, a huge pool of swimmers which we can draw on and perform at the highest level, Olympics, world champs. So this is a big initiative, it’s a laudable initiative, it’s the only thing that’s going to work in our country in the future is to have centres that can sustain themselves, with loadshedding and all the other kinds of problems that the general population have to deal with.
“We really want to encourage schools and clubs to form a relationship where we can come in as Swimming South Africa and establish a High Performance Centre where we can give the swimmers, especially linked to an education system, the opportunity of training and performing at the highest level of sport in the world.”