By David Rieder
JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, August 7. GERHARD Zandberg has run into issues with Swimming South Africa as a result of his actions at last week’s FINA World Championships. According to multiple sources, including South African swim site “ZwemZa,” Zandberg asked his federation six days before he was to compete in the men’s 50 back if he could switch hotel rooms. The article reports that Zandberg’s roommate, Cameron van der Burgh had a head cold which prevented Zandberg from sleeping.
After not receiving a reply from his federation with only two days remaining before the race, Zandberg moved out of his room with van der Burgh on Thursday, August 1, and he paid for his own room, in which girlfriend Linda joined him. It is unclear whether switching rooms or having his girlfriend come stay with him or both infuriated Swimming South Africa, but the federation insisted on meeting with Zandberg on Saturday, between the heats and semi-finals of the 50 back, which ended up lasting the majority of the day as the meeting turned into a disciplinary hearing.
The federation decided that Zandberg had violated team policy for the second time during the week in the hotel incident, having previously criticized the federation on social media. ZwemZa reports that Zandberg was fined R50,000 and was required to complete a year of community service. Apparently, Swimming South Africa originally included a two-year ban from swimming and scratching from the forthcoming World Cup meets among the punishments, but it is unclear if those sanctions will be enforced.
According to South Africa’s Eye Witness News, Swimming South Africa CEO Shaun Adriaanse supported the measures taken, commenting, “If you look at other sports, these measures are taken whether it’s before a final or not. The disciplinary measures are quite clear. We dealt with it when we were able to and the sanction was imposed. If you represent your national team and there are rules in place, you need to comply with those rules, irrespective of your age.”
Both articles report dissatisfaction among South African swimmers with the federation. ZwemZa notes that the federation previously came under fire in 2011, when athletes had to pay for a portion of their own travel expenses to the Shanghai World Championships. In the aftermath, former South African swimmer Kathryn Meaklim tweeted: “@ZandbergGerhard it’s things like this that make a person glad to have stopped swimming & stay that way. Outrage! Keep ur head high captain.” Meanwhile, South African media member Lance Rothschild shared his opinion on the situation: “Fire SwimSA CEO Shaun Adriaanse. Put the athletes first.”
At the meet in Barcelona, Zandberg had clocked 24.85 in the 50 back prelims, qualifying fourth for the semi-finals in his only event of the meet. He was seeking to become just the first man to medal in the 50 back at five different World Championship meets, a feat that Michael Phelps most recently accomplished in the men’s 200 fly. In the semi-final, Zandberg ended up 13th in 25.24 and did not qualify for the finals, although ZwemZa reports that he slipped, though did not cost him as much time as David Plummer, who famously finished last in the semi-finals in 26.00 after a major slip left him far behind the field at the start.
Click to view the full text of the ZwemZa and Eye Witness News articles.