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Apr 28 16

Open letter: To the Minister of Sport and all SA sports leaders

by ZwemZa
Dr. RossTucker

Prof.  RossTucker

Like many South Africans, I’ve been an interested observer of the latest play to drive our sports federations to adopt transformation more seriously. Preventing SA sports from bidding for and hosting international events is certainly an excellent way to get their attention. Minister, when Zapiro suggested to you in a cartoon that a bit of imagination could see “winning” and “transformation” strategies carried off at the same time, I’m not sure this is what he envisaged!

Nevertheless, it’s done, and let me be clear upfront, transformation is absolutely critical to sporting performance. It’s also clear that this has not happened to the degree that it could, and should, have. This is true quite aside from any social, political and economic factors that any reasonable person would recognise as having value.

Those are crucial, but my paradigm in writing to all of you today is performance. When I watch Kagiso Rabada take seven wickets in a Test match, or when Bryan Habana equals the Rugby World Cup try-scoring record, I find myself wondering “If he is capable of that, I wonder how many others we might have missed?”

That’s our reality – our sports have, for too long, picked their elite 11 or 15 from an artificially small segment of our population. It wastes a huge portion of our scarce resource of talent, and it’s profound to think that Habana or Rabada might be the “X” on a map that marks the buried treasure. Let’s get digging!  So unlike many, I don’t see transformation and elite performance as mutually exclusive. I hope we all agree on this, and can find a way to stop compartmentalising transformation.

However, I’m also acutely aware that this transformation issue never seems to go away. It’s a permanent fixture in SA sport, and I wonder whether this latest action will do anything other than incentivise window-dressing as the sports madly scramble to hit numerical targets without actually fixing the root causes? People respond to what they are measured against, after all, Minister, and your intervention may just compel a short-term solution, when really, it’s a long-term, multi-generational problem.

In thinking about that long-term problem, I want to attempt to distill the entire debate into what I hope are two simple but informative truths. I offer them as principles upon which a working solution to this recurring problem might be built.

First, transformation is nothing more than a weighted or “loaded” talent identification and development system.  Therefore, if sports are failing to transform, it’s because Talent ID and its subsequent development are failing.

Given that we’ve never invested in creating professional and elite sports governance or systems, this is hardly surprising. Such sports systems would allow three key changes. First, we would be able to implement a formalised coaching infrastructure. That would in turn allow us to better control and create incentives for player development among the coaches we do have. Third, it would create an identifiable long-term pathway for young players.

Given that none exist, are you surprised that sporting federations are missing the targets time after time? I’m certainly not, and the root cause is not simply transformation apathy. It’s capacity and competence. It’s the will, and the way, and I hope that you can all see how SRSA, SA Rugby, Cricket South Africa and co could help create both.

Second, talent identification and development can be thought of in the following way: You are reading this on April 28, 2016. In 10 to 12 years, at the 2026 FIFA World Cup, 2027 Rugby World Cup, or the 2028 Olympic Games, we want a team of South Africans that properly represents our nation to lift a trophy or receive gold medals. Do you agree?

If you do, then Talent ID can be distilled into one realisation, and three questions. The realisation is that the 26-year-old athlete who will one day win that trophy for us is 15 years old today. The questions are: Where is that person? What are they doing right now? With whom are they doing it?

You see sports leaders, those three questions drive your entire talent ID and development strategy. Our future stars cannot be ‘ghosts’ who miraculously, accidentally, appear on a rugby or cricket field for the national coach to select one day.

Of the three questions, the most crucial one is “with whom”, because the answer to that question is a person who must not only provide the technical coaching support and mentorship, but must also help to identify the young players we’re so interested in finding, thus answering “where” and “what” at the same time.

So, a key pillar of a transformation strategy should be to develop a pathway that prioritises the long-term development of future athletes, and to fill it with competent, rewarded people. Then you have to incentivise those coaches to develop young athletes, rather than to win from one week to the next. One of the problems we have, certainly in rugby and cricket, is that a current pathway runs through schools, and those coaches care only for winning. From the age of eight or nine, it’s about the scoreboard, and so again, should we be surprised when players fall off and disappear, having shown potential as youngsters?

If we can’t develop a parallel pathway that isn’t preoccupied with short-term victories, then the 15-year-old won’t become a champion, and the coaches whose heads are on the block for performance AND transformation at professional level will be forced into compromise because there are no world-class performers to satisfy both those agendas. But the failure we all see at the end of the pathway, in our professional teams, is actually the result of failures at the start and middle, where we couldn’t get the best potential in contact with the best support during the key formative years.

So that’s where your attention (and investment) should be directed. As sure as you are reading this now, no South African sport can answer those questions with the level of accuracy required. This is a very specific problem, and those cannot be solved with vague answers. That’s called guessing, and guessing is fertile ground for failure in elite sport.

Our problem is compounded by the fact that we have decided that the dice should be loaded in favour of black players.  Again, no objection from me there, but what you must realise is that if you want to change behavior, it’s not simply about forcing the removal of bias, or worse, racism, among selectors and coaches right down to school level. You also have to get creative about how you entice those young players to start, and then stay in, the sport.

Remember the second of those three questions? You must know what your future stars are doing, now and in the future? There’s a good chance they aren’t even playing the sport, because culture and the influence of their parents (who often didn’t play the sport either) are so crucial to sport commitment. This is why it normally takes generations to change behavior, but we want it fast-tracked. So how might this be done?

Well, in the same way that you might chose a Mercedes Benz over a BMW (hypothetically) when you buy a car, I’d want to understand how young black South Africans choose their sports. Transformation is not simply about pushing round pegs into square holes. We always talk about how coaches must select black players, but I would encourage you to consider it from the opposite direction – how do players select the sport they want to play?

Something I don’t think anyone has ever really thought about is that marketing and promotional strategies (which are responsible for your car preference, for instance) to make a given sport appear attractive to ‘buyers’ need to be integrated into our transformation strategies. How else are we going to accelerate the self-selection of the best talent to the sports that are historically not aspirational to many? And unless we get the best talent at the start, we won’t produce it at the end – this is elite sport, so you need the very best raw materials to produce a precious finished product.

So in closing, let’s keep working towards an integrated solution. Minister, I know you’re a man who values legacy, and yours could well be to finally steer the transformation discussion in the right direction. However, I just want to emphasise that ‘legacy’ is by nature a long-term word, and it takes a long time to build one. So too, effective transformation is a three-generation project. So I hope you’ll be patient, recognise that we must invest in expertise, pathways and incentives, not at the end of the pathway, but at the beginning.

You must also realise that this will cost money, but given that you’ve spent tens of millions on boxing events and single-night sports awards, perhaps this ban on hosting events can also applied to SRSA, which would free up a lot of money that can be better spent on the principles I’ve tried to introduce above. Then who knows, perhaps in 2026, you’ll be cheering on six Habanas in rugby and five Rabadas in cricket? If not, we’ll speak again, and raise the same set of root causes, in five years.

Yours in sport,

Ross Tucker

Professor Ross Tucker is also a research consultant to World Rugby. He has also advised the SA Sevens, SA Kayaking, SA Triathlon, USA Triathlon and the UK Olympic Committee. In addition he is an ambassador and adviser to Virgin Active as well as Adidas. Further, Professor Tucker has been named one of the ‘100 Most Influential People in Sport’ by the current South African Sport Minister Fikile Mbalula (2013).


Apr 28 16

Seidler breaks six Namibian records at SA National Aquatic Champs

by ZwemZa
Phillip Seidler (

Phillip Seidler (

Phillip Seidler was in great form, breaking six Namibian records at the SA Aquatic National Swimming Championship and Olympic Trials, which took place at the Kings Park Aquatics Centre in Durban from 10 to 16 April.

Seidler and Jörn Diekmann were the only Namibians in action at the SA Championship where they came up against top South African swimmers like Chad Le Clos, Cameron van der Burgh and Olympic hopes Mathew Meyer and Christopher Reid.

Seidler had a week of success. On his first day he won the Youth gold medal in the 400m freestyle and qualified for the senior finals. With his time of 4:09,35 min he broke his own Namibian men’s 17−18 400m freestyle record and the longstanding Namibian men’s Open 400m freestyle record of Heiko Horn by 3,75 seconds.

On the second day Seidler won a bronze medal in the youth category for the 200m freestyle in a new personal best time of 1:58,67min.

Seidler’s highlight however came in the 800m freestyle final on the third day when he set a new personal best time of 8:32,76. In the process he also broke his own Namibian men’s 17−18 800m freestyle record while he shattered the Namibian men’s Open record of Quinton Delie by 27,05 seconds.

With this performance he also won the youth gold medal, as well as the senior bronze medal, which was his biggest achievement.

On the last day Seidler tackled his favourite event, the 1 500m freestyle. He again showed all his skills as a long distance swimmer with a time of 16:28,58 min, qualifying for the senior final and once again winning the youth gold medal. He once again broke the Namibian men’s 17−18 1 500m freestyle and Open records by an impressive 27,56 seconds.

In total, Seidler broke six Namibian records, winning 3 youth gold medals, 1 youth bronze medal and 1 senior bronze medal.

After competing at the All Africa Games in 2015 in Congo Brazzaville, Jörn Diekmann also qualified for SA Aquatic National Swimming Championship.

He participated in six events and set a new personal best time of 26,50 seconds in the 50m freestyle.

Apr 28 16

Gimenez, Gascon: Friends and rivals

by ZwemZa
 Argentina’s Daniela Gimenez and Spain’s Sarai Gascon (Daniela Gimenez)

Argentina’s Daniela Gimenez and Spain’s Sarai Gascon (Daniela Gimenez)

Argentina’s Daniela Gimenez and Spain’s Sarai Gascon will head to their third consecutive Paralympic Games in 2016 as close friends with an underlying rivalry.

Since their first meeting back in 2007, the pair have enjoyed a strong friendship. But before Rio 2016 they will compete at the 2016 IPC Swimming European Open Championships in Funchal, Portugal, from 30 April-7 May.

“I basically want to reach my full potential for the Paralympic Games. The Europeans will be a high-level event,” said Gimenez.

“Funchal is going to be great for us to improve ahead of Rio 2016. It is a very important event and I will try to reach or outdo my personal bests,” added Gascon.

The pair compete against each other in the 100m breaststroke SB9, 50m freestyle S9 and 200m individual medley SM9 events. As the 50m freestyle world champion, Gascon is not adverse to offering her rivals advice before a race.

“I remember when we raced in the 100m breaststroke SB9 heats at London 2012,” recalled Gimenez. “I like wearing my swimming eyewear’s straps on my swimming hat although they can fill with water when I dive into the pool. Before that race, Sarai asked me if it was not uncomfortable for me and I answered that it was not.

“Right after the race started, my eyewear was already full of water. It was terrible. I thought about what Sarai had told me every one of those 100 metres.”

The two friends do not meet very often as they usually train and compete in different places.

However, every time they do, it is as if time had never passed.

“Every time we meet, it is as if we would have talked the day before!” said Gimenez, who won two gold medals at the Toronto 2015 Parapan American Games.

“We know how to separate our friendship from the sporting competition.”

Gascon, who sealed two silver and one bronze medal at London 2012, added: “Daniela is charming. Being both Spanish-speakers helps as well, of course.

“We have shared so many finals, including the 100m breaststroke SB9 one at London 2012, but have never had a problem. On the contrary, I get very happy when she does well and we always encourage each other.”

With five months to go until Rio 2016, Gimenez and Gascon already anticipate what sharing another Paralympic Games together will be like.

“Making it to a Paralympic podium would be a dream come true. And is there anything better than sharing it with a good friend?” said Gimenez.

Gascon added: “We have never climbed onto a podium together, even though we have been competing for so many years. The Rio Games would be the perfect scenario for that.”


The Funchal 2016 IPC Swimming European Open Championships will take place between 30 April and 7 May and will feature 453 athletes from 52 countries.

Morning sessions begin at 9:00am (WET) each day and evening sessions at 5:00pm and all coverage will be livestreamed at the Funchal 2016 website.


Apr 28 16

Sascha Kindred must wait on place in British team

by ZwemZa
Sascha Kindred, who was appointed an OBE in 2009, has competed at five Paralympic Games (Getty Images)

Sascha Kindred, who was appointed an OBE in 2009, has competed at five Paralympic Games (Getty Images)

Sascha Kindred must wait to see if he will compete at a sixth Paralympics after failing to make the qualifying standard on the final day of the British Para-Swimming trials.

The 38-year-old missed out on the time he needed in the heats and final of the SM6 200m individual medley.

“It’s out of my hands,” said Kindred, who made his GB debut in 1994.

A total of 25 swimmers met the required standard over five days of competition, with the team to be named next month.

Paralympic champion Josef Craig was the last to join the list, setting a new British record in the S8 50m freestyle in the last session.

Former world champion Amy Marren and S9 50m freestyle pair Matt Wylie and Ryan Crouch achieved their required times earlier on Wednesday.

Swimmers to achieve Rio Paralympic qualification times
Hannah Russell, Andrew Mullen, Susie Rodgers, Claire Cashmore, Charlotte Henshaw, Harriet Lee, Bethany Firth, Aaron Moores, Scott Quin, Ellie Simmonds, Rebecca Redfern, Abby Kane, Jonathan Fox, James Crisp, Oli Hynd, Steph Slater, Ellie Robinson, Tom Hamer, Steph Millward, Mikey Jones, Jessica-Jane Applegate, Amy Marren, Matt Wylie, Ryan Crouch, Josef Craig.

Veteran Kindred disappointed

Kindred, who needed to swim two minutes 42.65 seconds to make the consideration time for the Games, clocked 2:42.88 in the heats and 2:43.20 in the final.

“That’s the fastest time in the world so far this year,” said the six-time Paralympic champion.

“I have been on this team for over 20 years. The sport has moved on so much recently and it is great to see the youngsters qualify for the GB team this week.

“I felt pressure knowing my main event was on the last day and unfortunately it wasn’t to be.”

Craig rises to the occasion

British swimmer Josef Craig

As a 15-year-old, Josef Craig won Paralympic gold at the London Games in 2012 (Getty Images)

There was also pressure on Craig, who won gold in the S7 400m freestyle in London but was reclassified in 2014 into the S8 category for less-impaired swimmers.

Having missed out on a place at last year’s World Championships, the 19-year-old showed great determination to clock 27.27 seconds, beating the 27.45 he needed.

“That swim is probably of greater importance to me than the one which won me gold in London,” he said.

“I knew I had that sort of swim in the bag so it was fantastic to go and do it and shows I am still in the game.”

National performance director Chris Furber believes the displays in Glasgow put the GB in a strong position before both the European Championships, which start on Monday in Madeira, and the Rio Paralympics.

“We set the qualifying standards high because we wanted a quality team in Rio,” he said.

“We are delighted to have 25 swimmers achieve qualification times, plus a few others within 2% of the time, so we will have a strong team at the Paralympics.”

Elizabeth Hudson

Apr 28 16

CANA Zone 4 : Zambian swimmers scoop 60 medals

by ZwemZa


Zambia Swimming Union-ZSU -President Dave Thompson is happy that the national swimming team managed to scoop 60 medals at the just ended Cana Zone 4 swimming championships in Mauritius.

Thompson says the national swimming team has brought the country outstanding results.

He says for the first time in the unions’ history, 23 gold medals were minted at the tournament.

Thompson says Zambia was among strong opponents such as South Africa and hosts Mauritius but managed to bring honours home.

He has also thanked Government and the National sports Council for the support rendered to the national team.

Thompson was speaking to ZNBC sports News during an interview.

Apr 28 16

CANA Zone 4 : Uganda wins eleven medals

by ZwemZa

Cover dive 6The Ugandan national swimming team that traveled to Mauritius for the 14th edition of the Africa championship CANA Zone IV returned home Tuesday with 11 medals from the championship held on April 20-23.

The team, despite winning medals had trouble with the swimming pools as the team trains in a 25m pool while the competition was held in a 50m pool according to Abbey Ddamulira who was the team manager and coach.

“We had a good team and I’m happy with the team. We should have performed better but because we train in 25m Pool, our athletes were affected by a 50m pool,” Ddamulira stated.

The team which had Ambala Atuhairwe, Nabil Saleh, Salima Katumba,Ben Kaganda,Nicholas Malon and others was received by National council of sports (NCS) assistant secretary David Katende.

He promised to support the team during the CANA Zone III championship later this year in Zimbabwe.

The team of nine athletes won Gold, five Silvers and five bronze medals and Uganda Swimming federation Secretary Moses Mwase said their focus turns to sourcing resources in preparation for Zone III championship.

Apr 27 16

Open letter to the Sports Minister – do you really have a good story to tell?

by ZwemZa

joffers1Dear Mr Mbalula

I notice you’ve had your busiest work month since you took office as Minister of Sports back in 2010.

You’ve been on the run this April, opening new sports facilities in De Doorns and Limpopo, handing over cheques to winning athletes and re-igniting the good old debate about quotas and transformation in SA sport.

How timely with the national elections just around the corner.

I guess this tweet says it all about your electioneering campaign.

ANC @ANCwcape Apr 25
Handover of sports facilities in De Doorns by Minister Mbalula at 11h00.. ANC Government working for you.. ‪#‎VoteANC‬

Did you also have time to hand out food parcels and mattresses to the people of De Doorns?

The fact of the matter is SA sport is in dire straits and you can’t fool the sporting public with all your media spin and PR.

From the last six Olympic Games, SA has brought home a total of just 25 medals.

Few can argue we are one of the perennial under achievers on the Olympic stage for what we have in talent, facilities and finance.

The reason why we are under achieving is quite simple: Cronyism, failed administration and abuse of funds.

Between the Department of Sport and Recreation, SASCOC, the Sports Trust and the Lotto, you have found a way to manipulate the system.

There is no accountability and SA sport is being milked dry.

The Lotto is your “go to bank” and it’s no surprise that there are major contradictions in grants between the Lotto distribution agency and the sporting federations.

Who is really benefitting?

Even the Lotto has now gone the ostrich route (head buried in the sand) as the questions become too tough to answer.

In 2011, you debated quotas and transformation – why then in 2012, did you not make a stand for Simon Magakwe to be included in the SA Olympic team and in 2014 for Sive Speelman to go to the Winter Olympics?

Magakwe could have lined up against Usain Bolt and Speelman would have been our first black Olympic skier.

How big would that have been for SA sport and for youngsters to look up to?

You don’t need quotas – these guys are good enough on merit.

But instead, you piggy backed onto Oscar Pistorius for the London Olympics, saying quote: It’s not really about the athlete; it is a political decision that has been taken.”

So, why are you preaching transformation and quotas again in 2014?

Electioneering perhaps?

I see you were also very quick to jump on the ‘Magakwe bandwagon’ when he broke the SA 100m record earlier this month.

“We are going to take care of him so that he does not have to worry about other things except to run great times. We will put him on the Opex programme.”

I guess better late than never but why wasn’t Magakwe already on the Opex programme?

Perhaps, we can have another dinner to debate it.

Ernst van Dyk is also now one of your ‘favourite’ SA athletes after he won his 10th Boston Marathon title.

But what about his nine previous wins and did you know that van Dyk almost lost his Opex funding in 2013 for legitimately being critical of the SASCOC elections?

Our athletes are being silenced and the majority of the federations just go with the flow in fear of losing their funding.

It’s a web that is destroying SA sport.

If you really want a good story to tell, then please make sure that after these elections that SA has a Sports Minister who knows about sport and not one who says:

“If Ntini wasn’t brought to the fore & fast-tracked by Steve Tshwete, he wouldn’t be the best spin bowler that we have.”

Your over is up Mr Mbalula.

You’ve “spun” us a yarn since 2010 and spent more on awards, dinners, parties and travel than your two predecessors combined.

The “razzmatazz” needs to go and SA sport needs to be cleaned up once and for all.

Follow Graeme Joffe on Twitter: @joffersmyboy

Disclaimer: ZwemZa encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on ZwemZa are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of ZwemZa.

Apr 27 16

Michael Phelps claims ‘he wanted to die’ during battle with alcohol abuse

by ZwemZa
Michael Phelps (baltimore sun)

Michael Phelps (baltimore sun)

American swimming legend Michael Phelps has revealed that he “wanted to die” during his long battle with alcohol abuse. Phelps, who is set to take part in this summer’s Rio Olympic games, spoke about his difficulties with alcohol that led to two driving under the influence (DUI) arrests.

The 30-year-old, who is the most successful athlete in Olympic history, speaking during the Today show, opened up about his life and troubles.

“I think my mom was happy that I was alive because I think she saw the path I was going down. I think a lot of people close to me saw it, and I was going fast. Honestly, at one point I felt like I didn’t want to see another day.”

Phelps has had a chequered past with alcohol. His struggles with the bottle first became public in 2004 after he was arrested for DUI. Ten years later, in September 2014, he was arrested for his second DUI, but this time he did not go scot-free with the USA swimming association issuing a six-month suspension and prohibiting him from travelling to Russia to take part in the World Swimming Championships.

Thanks to family and friends, he enrolled himself in Alcoholics Anonymous, underwent 45 days of in-patient treatment and promised himself that he would cut out alcohol from his life.

“Before I even went to court, I said to myself that I’m not going to drink until after Rio — if I ever drink again. That was a decision I made for myself. I’m being honest with myself. Going into 2008 and 2012, I didn’t do that. I didn’t say I was going to take a year off from drinking and not have a drink.”

Phelps has won 18 Olympic golds and 22 medals overall at the last three Olympics and had retired from swimming after the 2012 London Games, saying that he had no goals to accomplish. The swimmer changed his mind a year later and will go into Rio 2016 as one of the most feared competitors in his field.

Apr 27 16

Three meet Para-swimming qualifying standard for GB

by ZwemZa
Amy Marren won gold at the 2013 IPC Swimming World Championships (Getty Images)

Amy Marren won gold at the 2013 IPC Swimming World Championships (Getty Images)

Three more swimmers achieved the Rio Paralympic qualifying standard at the British Para-swimming trials in Glasgow.

Former world champion Amy Marren, 17, achieved the time in the SM9 200m medley.

Matt Wylie, 19, and Ryan Crouch, 22, met the S9 50m freestyle standard.

Sascha Kindred, aiming to reach his sixth Paralympic Games, missed out in the SM6 200m heats by 0.23 seconds. He races again in Wednesday’s finals.

It takes the number of GB swimmers to have achieved the qualification times for Rio to 24.

While they are not guaranteed a place in the GB team for the Paralympics, which run from 7-18 September, they are highly likely to feature when it is named next month.

Swimmers to achieve Rio Paralympic qualification times
Hannah Russell, Andrew Mullen, Susie Rodgers, Claire Cashmore, Charlotte Henshaw, Harriet Lee, Bethany Firth, Aaron Moores, Scott Quin, Ellie Simmonds, Rebecca Redfern, Abby Kane, Jonathan Fox, James Crisp, Oli Hynd, Steph Slater, Ellie Robinson, Tom Hamer, Steph Millward, Mikey Jones, Jessica-Jane Applegate, Amy Marren, Matt Wylie, Ryan Crouch.
Apr 27 16

Pellegrini to fly flag for Italy in Rio

by ZwemZa
Federica Pellegrini

Federica Pellegrini

Swim star Federica Pellegrini, the golden girl of Italian sport, will carry her country’s flag at the Rio Olympics in August, the national Olympic committee CONI announced on Wednesday.

The former Olympic champion and 200m freestyle world record holder is Italy’s most high-profile female sports star.

“This is the crowning moment of years and years of a career comprising great defeats and really great victories,” she said in a Tweet after the announcement.

CONI said her selection had been “written in the stars” as the opening ceremony in Rio’s legendary Maracana stadium is on August 5, Pellegrini’s 28th birthday.

“It will crown a dream career that has always been pursued under the signs of talent, sacrifice and passion,” the Olympic committee said.

The glamorous Pellegrini won the 200m freestyle gold in Beijing in 2008 but failed to secure a single medal at London 2012.

She is a four-time world champion having won both the 200m and 400m in 2009 and 2011.

Pellegrini made headlines recently when she inadvertently posted her mobile phone number on Twitter, on which she has nearly half a million followers.

The mistake resulted in an avalanche of requests from admirers for her WhatsApp details as well.


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