By Stephen J. Thomas
JOHANNESBURG, February 16. SWIMMING South Africa (SSA) has appointed Dirk Lange as its new National Coaching Director.
The 41-year-old coach is currently the head coach at the Olympic Centre in Hamburg. He was also a member of the German National Team, having retired from swimming in the early 90’s. An economics graduate, Lange gradually moved into full-time coaching and has been part of every German Olympic and World Championships team since.
He has trained some outstanding sprinters in his relatively short career, including world champions German Sandra Völker, Swede Therese Alshammer and Brit Mark Foster. He also coached 2004 Olympians Heiko Hell and backstroke finalist, Marco di Carli.
Lange, who has a young family, was very keen to find an overseas posting to develop his coaching skills and is known also to have applied for positions in Australia.
Dave Norman, Chief Executive Officer of SSA, said Lange was one of four coaches that applied for the job.
"He was the only international coach to apply and has a wealth of experience in Europe. We believe he is the right man for the job. We are hoping that he can start at the beginning of March. We still have to finalise arrangements, but want him in South Africa as soon as possible," said Norman.
Lange will be based in Pretoria and Johannesburg and will be responsible for the structuring of swimming coaching in South Africa.
Norman said Lange will work closely with the coaches in South Africa and co-ordinate a national coaching program.
"At the moment, there is no real structure of coaching in South Africa. He will work with the coaches and establish a comprehensive coaching system for the swimmers. This will include coaching and scientific support," said Norman.
He will design and implement a high performance swimming competition schedule for swimming in South Africa and assist with the development of coaches in South Africa.
Lange has big plans for swimming in South Africa and told SwimInfo, "For me the position as the SSA National Coaching Director is really attractive and a fascinating challenge. The current state of swimming in South Africa suggests that the full potential is a long way from being reached. In relation to Beijing, this means that they will have a long way to go but I will try to help SSA to become one of the top five swimming nations."
At least as a starting point in South Africa, Lange will have a great men's base in the reigning Olympic 400 freestyle relay gold medalists and world record-holders. The vastly experienced Ryk Neethling – the success story of the current FINA World Cup – will move back to South Africa this month and provide a leadership role after a long stint in Arizona while teammate and rival Roland Schoeman, with two individual silver medals from Athens, will continue to train in the US.