EAST LONDON, South Africa, March 5. JOHANNESBURG-based teenage swim star Jay-Cee Thomson had the crowd on their feet as he stole the show in holding off the highly-fancied KwaZulu Natal swimmer Wesley Gilchrist in a 400 meter freestyle race that was decided on the finish touch pads, at the Telkom South Africa National Age Group 3 Championships held at the Joan Harrison Swimming Pool.
Thomson, 17, has resorted to studying for his matric examinations from home in order to allow more time for his swimming training, and the aquatics part is certainly paying off, as he took the honors in the men's 17-18 years category in 4:02.87 compared to the 4:02.97 clocked by second-placed Gilchrist.
"I believe that if I can post an Olympic B qualifying time at the Telkom SA National Championships in Durban in April, I may have a chance of being included in the SA 4 x 200 meter Olympic team that could be a part of the action at the Olympics in Beijing later this year," said Thomson.
In order for Swimming SA to enter a 4 x 200m meter relay team at the Beijing Olympics, the national federation will be required to apply to world body FINA. The qualification system states that the first 12 teams from the FINA World Championships in Melbourne, Australia last year qualify automatically, thereafter the fastest four countries which included times clocked up to May 2008 will have the opportunity to apply to FINA for the remaining four places.
Swimming SA's technical committee has set a target made up of the first four finishers in the 4 x 200 meter freestyle relay equaling or bettering a cumulative time of 7:20.07, achieved by the fastest four swimmers in the individual 200 meter freestyle races at the Telkom SA National Championships in Durban in April.
Should they achieve this cumulative time, the swimmers will be given the opportunity of swimming an official time trial at the national championships and the time from this time trial will be admitted to FINA for consideration.
If the fourth-place finisher does not clock a minimum of an Olympic B qualifying time, the relay application cannot be considered.
SA 200 and 400 meter individual medley record-holder Jessica Pengelly cruised to victory in the ladies 16 years category 400 meter freestyle in 4:20.86, while her namesake, 12-year-old Port Elizabeth-based Jessica Liss, was in a usual class of her own in winning the 12 years 400 meter freestyle in 4:30.46.
At last year's Level 3 championships, Pengelly collected 11 gold medals, and few would bet against her achieving a full house of gold, at this year's championships.
Special thanks to Swimming South Africa for contributing this report.