JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, April 27. LAST summer, South Africa soared to the top of the swimming world when it captured gold in a world-record time in the 400 freestyle relay at the Athens Olympics. If the nation has its way, that achievement was only the start of better things to come.
Earlier this week, Dirk Lange outlined his hopes for the future of Swimming South Africa. A German, Lange was recently appointed the head coach of SSA. During his six weeks on the job, Lange has spent considerable time traveling throughout the country, attending competitions and meeting with coaches and administrators at a variety of levels.
Along with Rushdee Warley, SSA’s Performance Manager, Lange has instituted structural changes to the packaging of the national squad, alterations intended to encourage athletes to remain in South Africa. Lange announced that educational assistance would be provided to athletes, along with the chance to compete internationally on a regular basis. He also promised better coaching methods and support for high-performance centers.
Athletes have been named to specific teams, including Senior and Junior Elite. National Senior and Junior Squads were also announced, as was a fast-tracking program for swimmers who were disadvantaged in training for their goal of international success. The target is for South Africa to enjoy greater success at the 2008 Olympics in Beijing.
"With swimming giants Australia, Germany and Great Britain already having specific plans toward Beijing, South Africa cannot afford to be left behind and must therefore plan accordingly to maintain their rightful place amongst the world’s leading aquatic nations," Lange said.
Lange emphasized that the nation needs cooperation among coaches and that maverick individuals will not be tolerated. A 42-year-old from Hamburg, Germany, Lange has coached a number of international standouts, including Sandra Volker, Therese Alshammar and Mark Foster.
Unquestionably, the two men at the head of South Africa’s push to premier status are Ryk Neethling and Roland Schoeman. While Neethling enjoyed a sterling World Cup season, Schoeman took home three medals at the Athens Olympics.