35-year old South African backstroker Gerhard Zandberg made a surprise return to competitive swimming this week at the 2018 South African Short Course National Championships in Durban.
The 50 back specialist cranked out a 24.67 in his primary event, which left him in 3rd place behind Jacques Van Wyk (24.57) and Zane Waddell (23.55) in the race. He also finished 2nd in the 100 IM in 55.43, behind only Brad Tandy (54.41), and 4th in the 100 back (54.65) (again behind Waddell, who won in 51.63).
Zandberg came up short of the times required to qualify for the Short Course World Championships in China in December, but the return was apparently enough to spark a full return to competitive swimming.
“Graham [Hill‚ the national coach] had said I should come down and give it a go for worlds‚ but I still need to lose more weight‚” Zandberg said in an interview with South Africa’s TimesLive. He also said he’s planning on training for next summer’s World Championships a the 2020 Olympic Games as well.
The story goes that he had predicted the time of an age-group swimmer at a local meet, and boasted that if the swimmer didn’t hit that time, that he would make a comeback. The unnamed kid missed, and Zandberg held true to his word.
Zandberg was the 2007 World Champion in the 50 meters backstroke in long course, and won bronze medals in the same in 2003, 2009, 2011, and at the 2008 World Short Course Championships. He also won 50 back bronze at the 2002 Commonwealth Games, and swam on South Africa’s 400 free relay at the 2006 Commonwealth Games, where they won gold.
Zandberg remains the South African Record holder in the 50 back in long course (24.34), plus the 50 back (22.85) and 100 IM (51.05) in short course – all three of which are also African Records.
Zandberg announced his retirement from competitive swimming in 2013 under a cloud after receiving a 2-year “violation of team rules” from Swimming South Africa in Barcelona. Accrdoing to Zandberg, that violation was paying for his own room and sharing it with his girlfriend to avoid catching a cold from his designated roommate Cameron van der Burgh.