JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, June 12. South Africa’s sports administration is putting as little support behind its U.S.-based swimmers on the Commonwealth team as possible, requiring them to pay for part of their plane fare to compete in Scotland next month.
In a letter obtained by Swimming World today, the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC) has informed the six swimmers on the Commonwealth team based in the United States that the maximum amount the organization will pay for their airfare from the United States is 10,000 South African rand, or roughly US$936. The SASCOC used the term “break aways” to describe the status of Roland Schoeman, Bradley Tandy, Dylan Bosch, Sebastien Rousseau, Marne Erasmus and Tara Lynn-Nicholas among their Commonwealth teammates.
The following paragraph is an excerpt from the letter from Swimming South Africa sent to the six swimmers:
SASCOC will not be booking any breakaway flights. These flights will have to be booked by SSA or the swimmer and can only claim R10000.00. Swimmers who are intending to return to SA will have to contribute to the difference in cost. We are obviously still in negotiations with SASCOC regarding this amount. If the swimmers travelling from the USA want to book their flights to arrive in Glasgow for the 17th that will be fine, but bear in mind the limited funds available, and first discuss the quote with SSA. If you require SSA to book the flight then please indicate your travel dates and if you want to return to SA or not.
Major sports federations fully fund travel and accommodations for athletes and staff to the top competitions each year, but South Africa has cited financial issues in its inability to finance its athletes in the past two years. Swimming South Africa was under fire last year for initially stating that its athletes who attended the aquatics world championships would have to pay for travel, unless they had participated in the finals at the Olympics the year before.
A quick online examination of airfare by Swimming World showed that the price of roundtrip flights from New York City to Glasgow (departure July 17, return July 30) is about $1,050. The price does not include baggage fees, or the flight each of the six swimmers would have to take from their current training bases to New York. (Schoeman and Tandy reside in Arizona, Bosch in Michigan, Rousseau in Florida and Erasmus and Lynn-Nicholas in Texas.)
The roundtrip airfare from Johannesburg to Glasgow for the same dates mentioned above is $1,200, which is comparable to the total airfare for the U.S.-based athletes.
Though South African swimming has seen much success in the past few years from “homegrown” athletes Chad Le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh, U.S.-based swimmers have given South Africa plenty of international medals in the past 20 years. Penny Heyns was a double Olympic champion and world record holder in 1996 while training in Nebraska. Schoeman, Neethling, Lyndon Ferns and Darian Townsend won the 400 free relay in the 2004 Olympics while training Stateside. Ferns and Schoeman were the only finalists for South Africa in individual events in 2008.