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Jul 23 14

Murray to win SA’s first medal?

by ZwemZa
Richard Murray

Richard Murray

Triathlete Richard Murray is favoured to win Team SA’s first medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Murray has been listed as third-favourite for the men’s triathlon set to take place on Thursday at 16:00 SA time around Strathclyde Country Park.

The Brownlee brothers from England – Alistair (2/5) and Jonathan (11/4) – are favourites to pick up the gold and silver medals, respectively.

Murray can be backed at a very attractive 9/1 to win.

Wian Süllwald and Henri Schoeman are the other South Africans in the race.


Jul 23 14

Sam Ramsamy takes high road to Glasgow

by ZwemZa
Sam Ramsamy and the late Nelson Mandela

Sam Ramsamy and the late Nelson Mandela

In one sense, this is a simple closing-of-the-circle-of-life story — Sam Ramsamy, the South African anti-apartheid fighter who all but destroyed the last Commonwealth Games in Scotland, in Edinburgh in 1986, now emerging as a key organiser of the Glasgow Games that start today.

But, really, there is nothing simple about the Ramsamy story. Like Allan Karlsson, the lead character in the Jonas Jonasson novel about the 100-year-old man who climbed out the window and walked off into one adventure after another, all the while casually recounting how he influenced major events in world history, Ramsamy emerges as the humble former primary school teacher who helped secure Nelson Mandela’s release from Robben Island and even played a role in delivering the 2000 Olympics to Australia.

Ramsamy was 33 in 1971 when he went into what turned out to be a 21-year exile from South Africa, having been alerted by a white colleague at the College of Education in Durban that he was about to be arrested by the Special Branch — the brutal enforcers of the government’s apartheid policy — and put on trial for sabotage.

Mandela himself had been charged under the Sabotage Act seven years earlier and sentenced to life imprisonment but Ramsamy’s sabotage didn’t involve anything nearly as dramatic as blowing up electricity plants. Instead, in his role as a physical education teacher, he sabotaged a school athletics carnival staged to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the founding of the racist republic.

So he had his students make a mockery of the meet, passing relay batons to the wrong team, sprinting the first lap of a 1500m race at top pace and then collapsing en masse to the track. Small potato stuff, in truth, though enough to incur the wrath of a government not known for its sense of humour. Within a few short years, however, he would be organising protests on a far grander, indeed global scale.

One month after the Soweto massacre of June 1976, 22 African nations boycotted the Montreal Olympics, a boycott Ramsamy in his new role as chairman of the South African Non-Racial Olympic Committee (SANROC) organised in protest at the All Blacks defying a global ban on sporting contacts with South Africa by staging a rugby tour there.

Australia didn’t join the protest — probably soon wishing it had because it didn’t win a single gold medal at Montreal — yet what no one knew at the time was that while its athletes were competing, the Australian government was actually funding the organisation that had almost wrecked the Olympics.

In an exclusive interview with The Australian yesterday in Glasgow, Ramsamy revealed that first Gough Whitlam and then Malcolm Fraser had helped to financially prop up SANROC.

It was not a huge sum, only $30,000, and Australia expected nothing in return, but down the years its conscience-based support for the anti-apartheid movement — which also extended to providing all the furnishings for South Africa’s Olympic House in Johannesburg — would reap a huge dividend when the 2000 Olympic Games were awarded to Sydney.

“Gough is revered in South Africa, next to Mandela,” Ramsamy said, winking at his own hyperbole.

“It’s wonderful what he did. Out of appreciation, when Sydney was bidding for the Olympic Games (in the early 1990s), I proposed to John Coates (the president of the Australian Olympic Committee) — in fact, it was more John’s idea than mine — that he come to South Africa with Gough Whitlam, not only in appreciation of what Australia did but what Gough Whitlam did. Gough would meet Mandela, who would say he supported Australia’s bid. John and Gough then went to (lobby) the other African countries and after Mandela had said that, what African leader would say no to them.”

It’s a matter of history now that had one vote changed hands, Sydney would have lost to Beijing. Would the African bloc have supported Australia so strongly without Mandela’s support and Ramsamy’s initial proposal? Not likely.

SANROC’s 1976 success in Montreal would be mirrored 10 years later when Ramsamy would orchestrate another major ­anti-apartheid boycott, this one targeting the Edinburgh Common-wealth Games. England’s cynical recruitment of two isolation-busting white South African sporting champions, runner Zola Budd and swimmer Annette Cowley, and Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s refusal to agree to major economic sanctions against South Africa triggered the explosion that ultimately led to 32 teams and nearly 1500 athletes boycotting the Games.

“That degraded the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh very, very badly,” recalled Ramsamy, though he, too, paid a heavy price, receiving so many death threats that he was forced to move house from one end of London to the other.

Yet, slowly, the tide was turning against South Africa’s racist regime. In the same year of the Edinburgh boycott, nearby Glasgow awarded Mandela the freedom of the city, which was more than a little poignant considering he was still behind bars in Pollsmoor Prison. Following his release, however, he would make the trip to Glasgow to receive the keys to the city in person and one of Ramsamy’s proudest moments came just last week when he took part in a ceremony in Glasgow renaming one of its squares Nelson Mandela Place.

Though his two decades of campaigning against apartheid ultimately helped to force sports-crazy South Africa to change its ways and bring about Mandela’s release, it was not until Ramsamy ended his self-exile and returned to South Africa in 1991 that he met “Madiba” for the first time. Not surprisingly, they became firm friends.

So it was that Mandela was watching on proudly from the stands, already being treated as South Africa’s head of state though he would not formally be elected as president for another year, when Ramsamy, now head of the SA Olympic Committee, led the first non-racial Olympic team from the country into the stadium at the 1992 Barcelona Games opening ceremony.

“Nelson always said that ‘Sam walked in like the whole stadium belonged to him’,” Ramsamy laughed.

Mandela tried in vain to persuade Ramsamy to come into his new government but the country’s new sports supremo, though a long-time fee-paying member of the African National Congress, declined.

Then Mandela switched tacks, offering him instead an ambassadorship. Ramsamy ran the idea past his wife, Helga, who he had met while studying, of all things, sports management and swim coaching in East Germany in 1973 at the height of its tainted drugs program — not an item in his CV he regularly highlights — and she coyly replied that since he had lived in exile for the past two ­decades, surely he should be ­allowed to spend some time in South Africa.

Mandela did, however, use him as a sounding board as he mulled over the idea to allow South Africa’s rugby side, the darling of the hardline Afrikaaners, to continue to use its springbok emblem — a process later to form the basis of the Morgan Freeman-led movie Invictus.

Ramsamy supported Mandela’s argument that the Afrikaaners needed to be brought inside the tent otherwise they might bring the whole thing crashing down. But when black extremists took issue with it, it wasn’t Mandela they targeted. He was untouchable — “like Abraham Lincoln”, Ramsamy noted — and so they turned their attack on to the country’s sports boss, accusing him of selling out.

By now, of course, Ramsamy had developed fairly thick skin. He had thought that he might need it when, in his role as vice-president of the international swimming body, FINA, he was brought in to run the swimming competition at the Glasgow Games.

He was, after all, the man most responsible for ruining the Scots’ last Commonwealth Games and worse — in Scottish eyes — cost them a lot of money. And so he braced himself for an attack that never came.

“The whole ambience has changed,” he said. “Simply because of Nelson Mandela.”

Nothing, of course, is ever that simple.

Wayne Smith | The Australian

Jul 23 14

Glasgow 2014 : Dunford seeks to retain his 50m Butterfly crown

by ZwemZa
Jason Dunford

Jason Dunford

Commonwealth Games 50 metres gold medallist, Jason Dunford is confident he can retain his title at the games starting today in Glasgow.

Dunford is lined up to compete in the 50m and 100m butterfly as well as the 100m freestyle. The Kenyan top swimmer said he is well rested after being burnt out in the last couple of years.

Dunford didn’t compete for the better part of last year after a competitive 2012, where he raced at the London Olympics and the African Championships at Kasarani. “I needed that break from swimming since I was tired. I now feel revitalised and ready for competition at Glasgow and ready to do the country proud,” he added.

Dunford prepared for the Commonwealth Games by taking part in the American Prix, where he won two bronze medals. Dunford said he has gained a lot of strength by going to the gym and has been constantly hitting his best times in training. “The extra strength is going to help me have easier speed in the front half of my races to allow me to finish better,” he said. Dunford observed that he is in good shape for the games. “I feel my stroke coming together nicely as my flexibility returns. I am hitting the times I want in training and now it’s really about fine tuning, resting up and getting my mind ready for the competition.”

Kenya will also be represented by 11 swimmer at the championship. They include Micah Fernandez, Hamdan Bayusuf, Tony Pragassa, Issa Abdalla and Kimani Maina in the boys category and Sylvia Brunlhener, Martha Opiyo, Talissa Lanoe, Danielle Awori, Rebecca Kamau and Anita Fields (girls).

The Star

Jul 23 14

Glasgow 2014 : Cameron hot for medals

by ZwemZa
A prepared Cameron Van Der Burgh looks set to make a splash at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. (Fabrice Coffrini)

A prepared Cameron Van Der Burgh looks set to make a splash at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow. (Fabrice Coffrini)

On the hottest day in Glasgow this week, where temperatures soared to 26ºC, Cameron van der Burgh sat down in the international zone at the athletes’ village and contemplated the advantage and burden of being a hot favourite and experienced athlete at his second Commonwealth Games.

There was a calmness about Van der Burgh, the Olympic 100m breaststroke champion and world record holder, who seldom seems flustered. He’d flown in from Austria on Monday, after final preparations for these games with his coach, Dirk Lange, the former head coach of the South African team. The calm would end on Friday, when he begins to compete. He was putting on his game face slowly.

“I’m getting there,” said Van der Burgh, who will defend the 100m and 50m titles he won in Delhi.

“There’s always a high expectation of what you should feel like. You always want to feel better, but you never know until you race. It gets harder and not easier ahead of big events, because you have to pump yourself up more and get excited.

“It’s not that you don’t know what to expect, but that when you are younger, things are new to you. As you get older, you almost take it for granted and you are more relaxed. Now I’m used to it.”

Experience can sometimes be accompanied by the dullness of complacency. The Olympic champion and world record-holder is fully aware that becoming a champion and remaining one is about the fight against complacency and knowing how and when to ratchet up the emotional element to go with the physical talent.

“I was speaking to Roland (Schoeman) about it, and he was saying he’s really excited about this for the first time in a long time. He was swimming really well, then he went through a dip, and now he feels he’s on the way up again,” said Van der Burgh.

“A big thing he said to me was that when you are winning, you take it for granted. When you are doing well, you expect it is going to come. That’s when it is very dangerous. You have to make sure you get excited and pumped up.”

Van der Burgh was pumped up in Delhi four years ago, when he won the 100m breaststroke and held up his hands with the “Ke Nako” motto that had marked the 2010 World Cup in South Africa that year written on his palms. It was a frontpage hit for Van der Burgh, although he had to explain to some of the international media that it meant “our time is now”.

“A lot of people thought it was my girlfriend’s name,” laughed Van der Burgh, who wasn’t sure whether he would do something similar in Glasgow. “I don’t know. Not yet.

“They are quite strict now, you can’t wear certain things.”

He will be hoping to wear two gold medals and perhaps one silver from the 4x100m medley relay, where South Africa feel they have a real chance of a podium. His main competition in the 100m will come from Australia’s Christian Sprenger, who has swum 58.87 this year, and England’s 19-year old Adam Peaty, who broke the British record in Barcelona with a 59.25, the second-fastest in the world this year.

Van der Burgh of South African has a 59.50 and Ross Murdoch of Scotland 59.56.

Van der Burgh feels his time in Austria has been good for him. He overcame a sickness he had picked up in South Africa there, and has tapered himself about as perfectly as he can. He has worked on his stroke this year, making a few changes, slightly longer but more efficient. His body is ready. The mind will follow.

“It’s the nerves,” said Van der Burgh. “You have to get into it. The regimes of shaving, etc, are triggers to get you started. I’ve done a lot more work this year, so I’m a lot more nervous. I am looking forward to racing.”

Kevin McCallum

Jul 23 14

Van der Burgh has a few good reasons to be on his toes

by ZwemZa
Cameron van der Burgh

Cameron van der Burgh

Olympic swimming champion Cameron van der Burgh, one of South Africa’s top gold-medal hopes at the Commonwealth Games, believes in giving good value.

Like he did after a poor performance at a small gala in Italy in June.

“I was so flat,” he said of the 100m breaststroke race, where he finished near the back of the field in a slow time. “I withdrew from the 50m breaststroke. I even said to the organisers ‘you can take my appearance fees back’.”

There was no evidence in Van der Burgh’s demeanour on Tuesday of a hangover of that slump — the result of insufficient recovery time after heavy training.

He was relaxed as ever during the interview at the athletes village in Glasgow.

The gala kicks off on Thursday, though Van der Burgh’s quest for three medals will begin on Friday, with the 100m breaststroke, one of the toughest races of Glasgow 2014, up first for him.

Van der Burgh, who won the 100m at the 2012 London Games, admitted he still had to psyche himself up for battle.

“You have high expectations. It gets harder because you don’t get as excited. You have to prep yourself up,” says Van der Burgh, admitting he received valuable advice from teammate Roland Schoeman about his situation.

“He told me, when you’re winning, you take it for granted.”

But Van der Burgh is confident the butterflies will start flapping soon. “I think it’s good I start racing on the second day.

“Once the competition starts and I’m watching the guys racing, and then when we shave, that’s when the nerves will start.”

He has reason to be on his toes in Glasgow — there is stiff competition. The top four in the world are all from the Commonwealth.

Australian Christian Sprenger, who beat him to the world title in 2013, is the fastest in the world this year, and Adam Peaty of England is No 2. Van der Burgh is third and Scotland’s Ross Murdoch fourth.

But the South African cares more about racing than rankings — he likes to produce the goods when it counts.

The signs are that he is ready for a repeat of his London success. Two years ago in training, two weeks out of competition, he clocked 14.9sec for his third 25m, and this time he did 14.8sec.

Van der Burgh, who also competes in the 50m breaststroke as well as the 4x100m medley relay, wears the mantle of Olympic champion comfortably — the target that comes with it too.

Even at the training pool here he has the opposition scrutinising him. “When I’m warming up people are filming you, watching you,” he said with a laugh, adding it could make him feel awkward if he was off-key in the pool.

But video analysis is part of top-flight swimming.

Van der Burgh, the defending Games champion and world record-holder in both the 50m and 100m races, believes he and his South African teammates have a good chance of taking the relay silver behind Australia on the final day of the gala on Tuesday.

Medal hopes judoka Jacques van Zyl and wrestler Terry van Rensburg aim to make South Africa proud. Van Zyl, 24, is aiming to scoop South Africa’s first judo medal and he is relishing the challenge.

“I like making history. At the African championships in 2011 I was the first South African in 25 years to get a medal there.”

Van Zyl and Van Rensburg were both young when they started their sports, instantly falling in love with them. After school Van Zyl spent a year in Japan on a judo scholarship. “Judo is like a religion there. They train the kids hard from a young age,” he says, but quickly points out that Japan has lost its tight grip on the sport.

“At the 2012 Olympics the best the Japanese men did was two silvers.” Van Zyl also competed at the London Games, where he was leading until he lost with 26 seconds remaining in his fight.

Taking aim at the 2016 Olympics, he wants to improve on his current world ranking of 22, which still makes him the top seed for Glasgow.

Van Rensburg hopes to compete at the Rio Games with his younger brother Lucius who made the podium at the world wrestling cadet championships.

The judo competition at the Commonwealth Games begins on Thursday, while the wrestling gets to grips on Tuesday.

David Isaacson | BDLive

Jul 23 14

South African swimmers have eye on Rio

by ZwemZa

ChadCameronSouth Africa’s elite swimmers will be targeting the Rio Olympics, two years down the line, as they lead the medal charge at the Commonwealth Games starting in Glasgow today.

The swimming squad delivered 16 of the country’s 33 medals at the 2010 Commonwealth spectacle in Delhi and went on to contribute half the six-medal tally at the 2012 London Olympics.

Chad le Clos grabbed five medals at the Delhi Games, and the 22-year-old Olympic and world butterfly champion will target an even better return in Glasgow, confirming the Commonwealth showpiece forms an integral part of his long-term plans.

“This is an experimental year for me and I’m trying different events,” Le Clos said.

“Rio is the main focus, and whatever happens at these Games, I’ll take the result.”

Only three of the Delhi medallists in the pool will compete in Glasgow, with Le Clos joining Olympic breaststroke champion Cameron van der Burgh and veteran sprinter Roland Schoeman, who each earned three medals at the previous Games.

Only seven other medallists from Delhi, representing three codes, will turn out for Team SA.

Sunette Viljoen, in consistent form this season, aims for her third straight javelin crown, and LJ van Zyl, who took silver four years ago but has been below par for the last few seasons, hopes to draw on his experience and regain the 400m hurdles title he won at the 2006 Melbourne Games.

Lawn bowlers Gerry Baker, Tracy-Lee Botha, Susanna Nel and Susanne Steyn, who contributed to three gold medals won in Delhi, are back in the fold, while Cecil Afrika is the only member of the 12-man rugby Sevens squad who secured bronze four years ago.

The rugby team were hit by a few late changes, with Springboks Bryan Habana and Schalk Brits unable to get released from their clubs and Mark Richards replacing injured Stormers speedster Cheslin Kolbe, but Afrika, the SA team’s flag-bearer, remained confident of their chances.

Meanwhile, track sprinter Nolan Hoffman, cross country rider Philip Buys and road ace Ashleigh Moolman will lead the national cycling team.

Archery, which returned two bronze medals in Delhi, and tennis were replaced by the judo and triathlon codes, and African champion Jacques van Zyl is among the favourites for a medal in the men’s 73km judo division, while Richard Murray will aim for the podium in the men’s triathlon.

Wesley Botton

Jul 23 14

McCarley completes triple crown of marathon swimming

by ZwemZa
Anthony McCarley, 54, of Berwyn, emerges from the Pacific Ocean after swimming 20 miles from Catalina Island to the California mainland on Saturday. This was his third and final leg of what is known as the Triple Crown of marathon swimming. He crossed the English Channel last August, and swam 28 miles around Manhattan June 28. Photo provided Mr McCarley

Anthony McCarley, 54, of Berwyn, emerges from the Pacific Ocean after swimming 20 miles from Catalina Island to the California mainland on Saturday. Photo provided Mr McCarley

Man will never stop testing his limits – nor finding love in unexpected places, like 56-degree water. Two aquatic updates:

After swimming the English Channel in August, chronicled in The Inquirer, Anthony McCarley of Berwyn finished two monster swims this summer to complete the Triple Crown of marathon swimming.

On June 28, he circled Manhattan, 28.5 miles in a conservative nine hours and 40 minutes. Three weeks later, on Saturday morning, he stroked 20.2 miles in the Pacific Ocean from Santa Catalina Island to the California mainland.

McCarley – who does not like to get into the Main Line YMCA pool to train unless he can swim for at least three hours – started his Catalina Channel swim at 11 p.m. Friday. He wore red and green lights on his swim suit and goggle strap so his support boat could follow him. He swam through the night in 68-degree water – a warm bath compared to the 58-degree English Channel – and crawled, 13 hours and three seconds later, onto the beach of the San Pedro section of Los Angeles.

The ocean current worked against him, getting stronger the closer he got to shore. So, even as his distance to the coastline decreased, his time to get there remained the same, for hours. His crew, with GPS and fancy instruments, would share the bad news with him every 20 minutes when he would tread water to drink from a water bottle they tossed.

“I felt like crying every time they told me the news,” he said. “It was so crushing. I never did cry.”

He just suffered.

Thirteen hours in a cold ocean, much of it in the dark, worrying a fair amount about great white sharks, since one had just attacked a swimmer three weeks earlier nearby.

“I forgot how painful swimming was,” he said Monday before boarding a plane home. “I’m sounding tired and whiny and complaining today, but inside I’m shocked and in awe and amazed. There’s a real high that’s going inside of me right now.”

McCarley, who runs InteHealth, a health-focused software company in Malvern, is part of an expanding and aging group of marathon swimmers, about 8,000, many in their 40s and 50s.

“Our sport is growing, and it’s becoming older and slower,” said Steven Munatones, editor of the Daily News of Open Water Swimming.

He said 93 people have completed this triple crown, though “40 percent of them have done it in the last four years.” Fewer than 10, he said, have done all three within 12 months, like McCarley.

The sport tends to attract goal-oriented, introverted people with incredible willpower, Munatones said.

“Sensory deprivation is immense,” he added. “The whole exercise exists in your mind.”

McCarley strives to practice lap after lap, hour after hour, at the exact same pace; he finds the experience meditative. He can also do a lot of thinking about work.

Marathon swimming is defined as distances in open water greater than 10,000 meters, or six miles. An estimated 12 million people worldwide participate in the broader sport of open water swimming, Munatones said.

Marathon swimming attracts older participants in part because it can be expensive. For the Catalina swim, McCarley rented his support boat for $3,200. The entry fee for the Manhattan swim, which supplied a support boat, was $2,500.

Marathon swimming can lead to immense personal satisfaction – and also true love.

Jason Malick, 31, who lives in Wilmington and Avalon, N.J., organized a swim in 2011 across the Delaware Bay, from Cape May to Cape Henlopen, believed to be the first in 100 years. He led a group of five swimmers, but only one succeeded.

Malick also organized a 15-mile swim around Cape May last fall, in which McCarley participated and completed just three weeks after his English Channel swim, giving him confidence that he could complete the Manhattan and Catalina events so close together.

In January, Malick entered the Frogman Swim – a 5000 meter swim (3.1 miles) in 56-degree Tampa Bay.

There, he met Lisa Hertz, 29, a former Franklin and Marshall College swimmer.

“We were two of only three people out of 150 that weren’t in wetsuits,” he said.

Love was found in the frigid water. They began dating and supporting one another in open water swimming.

She swam 24 miles in Tampa Bay in April and he paddled beside her in a kayak as protector. And then she was on his support boat as he, like McCarley, also swam 28.5 miles around Manhattan on July 12.

Moments after finishing, “I popped the question on the dock,” Malick said. “Luckily she said yes.” Of course, the engagement ring is a white gold dolphin with an aquamarine in it.

“We plan on honeymooning in Hawaii,” he added, “and each swimming the 26-mile Molokai Channel between Molokai and Oahu.”

The Inquirer

Jul 23 14

Bertrand says Aussie swim team’s morale sky high

by ZwemZa
Newly appointed head of Swimming Australia John Bertrand. Source: David Geraghty

Newly appointed head of Swimming Australia John Bertrand. Source: David Geraghty

The reinvention of Australian swimming will be judged on how events transpire at the Glasgow pool over the next seven days, according to Swimming Australia president John Bertrand.

Much water has gone under the bridge since the country’s disappointing performance at London’s aquatic centre in 2012, after which an independent review described the environment around the team as “toxic” and devoid of leadership.

The sport has a new head coach, Jacco Verhaeren, a new high-performance director, Michael Scott, and world titles won by James Magnussen, Christian Sprenger and Cate Campbell this year.

And according to athlete and administrator alike, there is also a new united vision they hope will result in dozens of medals, plenty of them gold, being collected at the Tollcross International Swimming Centre over the next week.

Two years after the London Olympics, the Commonwealth Games will represent the first time since then the swim team – which numbers 59 in Glasgow – comes under the collective gaze of the free-to-air viewing nation.

Bertrand, the America’s Cup winner who took the helm at Swimming Australia last August, agrees it’s “the reality” that the results of Australia’s swimmers will be heavily scrutinised – more so than any other athletes in Glasgow – but is banking on big things in Scotland.

“The team spirit is very, very strong. They are proud young Australians. They want to do our country proud,” Bertrand said. “They have been training hard, clearly, and we’ll know in a week’s time how good this team is.”

Bertrand says “huge” lessons have been learned from London, where the claiming of only one gold medal ended up being considered the least of the Australian swim team’s problems.

The subsequent report commissioned by Swimming Australia essentially took a machine gun to the leadership structure within the team, saying its failures had contributed to many problems including swimmers “getting drunk, misuse of prescription drugs, breaching curfews, deceit, bullying” and incidences of “peer intimidation and hazing”.

The poster boys for the debacle were the men’s 4×100 metres relay team, who were fined after admitting taking the prescription drug Stilnox in a “bonding exercise”.

More broadly, though, the malaise boiled down to a complete deterioration of team harmony, a slide in standards that even led Australia’s most successful swimmer in London, Alicia Coutts, to consider quitting.

Bertrand said swimming had set about improving “values, cultural values, trust, integrity, transparency and communication” in the past 18 months.

“(It’s) stuff that’s fundamental, but that’s coming through stronger and stronger,” he said. ”The trust we have in people here is enormous now and that’s something that will be tested of course over the next week because we’ll have our ups and downs but it’s only going to harden our resolve.”

“Swimming is our national sport, as is cricket. and the country has always been proud of the Australian swim team and we performed well below expectations (in London), that’s just the reality of the situation.

“But certainly the feedback I get from the coaches is the morale is very, very strong. That’s all you can ask. Sixty per cent (of the swim team) are new since London so it’s a new world for Swimming Australia.

“The fact is that any organisation is always learning; if not you’re going backwards. And we are in the business of competing against the United States, and Russia and China and so forth. To do extremely well against the best is a huge challenge but that’s what we’re about.”

The swim team is expected to win about a third of all Australian medals in Glasgow. According to Australian Institute of Sport targets they are projected to collect between 53 and 55 medals but Bertrand indicated that should not be seen as a ceiling.

“Interestingly enough, there are various targets in terms of what the Australian swim team suggest we’ll do,” Bertrand said.

“From a coach’s point of view those type of targets are irrelevant. It’s a matter of getting your swimmer to seek perfection, which is a different way of looking at it, and results will follow. That’s very much part of the mantra of the Australian swimming team.”

Chris Barrett

Jul 23 14

Glasgow 2014: Jamieson chasing gold and world record

by ZwemZa
Michael Jamieson

Michael Jamieson

Michael Jamieson says he is targeting Commonwealth Games gold and a world record when he competes in the 200m breaststroke in his home city.

The 25-year-old is the top medal hope for the host nation on Thursday, the first day of competition in Glasgow.

“I’ve woken up for training every morning with the world-record time on my alarm clock,” said Jamieson.

“It’s the first thing I see when I wake up. Psychologically, that’s what I’m aiming for.”

The current record stands at two minutes 7.01 seconds, set by Japan’s Akihiro Yamaguchi in 2012.

Jamieson’s personal best, set when he won silver at the London 2012 Olympics, is 0.42secs slower.

“It’s a target and I hope I get there this week,” he added.

“I’ve seen at first hand the level of noise a home-crowd advantage can give you. This is the best opportunity I’ll ever have to do something like that.”

David Wilkie in his heyday in 1976

David Wilkie in his heyday in 1976

David Wilkie remains Scotland’s most successful swimmer after winning two Commonwealth golds in 1974 and an Olympic gold two years later in the 200m breaststroke, the event in which Jamieson now competes.

The 60-year-old thinks his countryman may snatch that title from him if he wins gold in Glasgow in a world-record time.

“I’m not sure I’m ready to have him as the best swimmer ever in Scotland,” Wilkie told BBC Sport. “He’s still got a bit to do to catch up on me, but that’s me being a little bit egotistical.

“If he wins gold and beats the world record, he’ll cruise into top spot.”

Jamieson describes Thursday’s 200m breaststroke final as “the biggest race of my life” as he goes for his first major international gold medal.

He says he is trying to deal with the pressure and avoid being overwhelmed by the sense of occasion.

His image, which can be seen on billboards and posters, has become synonymous with Scotland’s gold medal aspirations.

“The nerves are starting to build now, so I’m just trying to stay as chilled as possible,” he said.

“I have one day I’m totally relaxed and then one day where I’m getting really nervous and stressed about it.

“I had a quick look at the pool and I had some butterflies already just walking in and seeing the arena.”

Jamieson added that he needed to turn the pressure into a positive.

“To have so many people backing me and willing me to do well is brilliant,” he said.

“I feel like this isn’t only a goal for me, it’s for everyone who has given me support and had a hand in my progress as an athlete.

“This is the biggest race of my life. It’s at home. It’s where things started.”

Jamieson says the level of competition will be “truly world class”, with five of the top eight swimmers in the world also chasing gold.

Among them is Australian Christian Sprenger, who Jamieson beat to silver in Delhi four years ago.

Jamieson feels he is in the right shape to top them all.

“I certainly think so,” he said. “I’ve done absolutely everything I can.

“I train 35 hours a week to be involved in events like this. The hard graft is already done. Competition should be the easy bit.”

David McDaid | BBC

Jul 23 14

Glasgow 2014: Murdoch hopes to pip Jamieson in 100m breaststroke

by ZwemZa
Ross Murdoch

Ross Murdoch

Ross Murdoch caught a wave at Tollcross to leave him even more pumped up for glory at the Commonwealth Games.

The rising star of the pool will go head to head with Michael Jamieson as the Scots meet in the battle of the breaststroke.

Olympic silver medallist Jamieson is favourite over 200m but Murdoch could hold the edge over 100m on Saturday night after defeating his more illustrious rival en route to setting a Scottish record earlier this year.

Murdoch, 20, could walk down Sauchiehall Street and not turn a head but for the past few days he has tasted stardom – and enjoyed every minute.

He said: “We had training camp in Aberdeen last week and it was good to get away from an atmosphere in Glasgow that is almost overwhelming.

“There are buses driving through town and people waving at you, unlike Aberdeen, which was fairly quiet.

“We got to the pool at Tollcross the other night and the Queen’s baton relay was passing at the same time.

“As our team bus pulled up we were spotted by a load of people there to see the baton.

“It was a case of, ‘Look, it’s the Team Scotland swimmers’ followed by screaming and waving. It was pretty cool and it will push me on when I walk out for heats or even finals and there are supporters cheering me on.

“That could give Team Scotland an edge over other competitors.”

Murdoch has enjoyed a remarkable rise in the past 12 month, winning 100m gold and 50m bronze, both in Scottish records, at the British Gas Championships in Sheffield.

He then made his senior international debut at the World Championships in Barcelona, reaching the semi-finals of the 100m breaststroke.

The Commonwealth Games are a milestone en route to his ultimate goal, the Olympics at Rio in 2016. He added: “I first thought about Glasgow five or six years ago but it was just a dream then – I didn’t honestly think it could be a reality.

“I wasn’t the best age group swimmer. It took me until I was 17 or 18 before I posted any decent times.

“Around the summer of 2011 it became more realistic that I could set out for this and I’ve wanted to be part of these Games in the three years since.

“I watched the London Olympics and wished I could have been a part of it. I got tickets to see Michael in the heats and to be there when he set a personal best was amazing.”

Murdoch laughs at the thought of him and Jamieson scowling at each other over the cornflakes in the athletes’ canteen before they compete.

He added: “I’ll not be too fazed by that given the amount of times I’ve seen him and raced against him.

“If all goes to plan I’ll be racing every one of the six days swimming is on but I’ve a lot of time to recover during the day.

“One of the things I haven’t experienced is how the crowd reacts when a Scot walks out poolside. Sometimes I listen to music coming out to get me psyched up but I don’t think I’ll need it in Glasgow. I’m really buzzing already.”

Gary Ralston

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