Swimming South Africa has revealed its National Team selection criteria for the 2019 calendar year, including the country’s Elite Senior Squad, Senior Squad, Elite Youth Squad, Senior Youth squad, Junior Youth squad, Elite Junior Squad and Junior Squad.
The strategy adheres to the nation’s Long Term Participant Development (LTPD) program, as well as the stringent requirements for selection of athletes and teams to major events under the jurisdiction of the South African Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (SASCOC).
Per their criteria, the national team is to be selected with a focus on the 2020 Olympic Games and 2022 Commonwealth Games. And, although some athletes may receive support largely based on their world ranking, the SSA documentation states that others ‘might not receive the same extent of support’, leaving some of the squad activities fully funded, partially subsidized or self-funded.
For the top of the hierarchy, the Elite Senior Squad, its composition will be determined based on results at the South African Nationals, with any swimmer achieving a FINA A qualification time standard in an Olympic event being selected.
The next level down, the Senior Squad, will include any first and second placed swimmer in an Olympic event final at the SA National Championships, as long as a FINA B qualification time has been achieved.
Of particular note, however, within the Senior Squad selection is the fact that there is a clause stating, ‘any black swimmer who has achieved an ‘A’ final in an Olympic event at the SA National Championships.’ This same race-specific clause appears in other groups within the document, including the Senior Youth Squad, Junior Youth Squads, among others. This policy stems from a larger nationwide effort over the last two decades to correct the actions of the previous Apartheid system in South Africa, which from 1948 until the early 1990s was a system of institutionalized racism in the counntry.
This racial component ties directly into the Swimming South Africa strategy outlined in its ‘transformation’ plan published in the mid-2000s by then-SSA President Jace Naidoo and now carried out by current President Alan Fritz. At the time of its creation, the plan stated that, given the increasing pressure from state and the fact that after more than 12 years of a politically non-racial society, ‘aquatic sport is still not reflective of the broader South African society, and given that our senior provincial and national teams consist almost exclusively of white participants, there has to be a rapid organisational response.’
The short-term response was to institute racial quotas to the tune of water polo and synchronized swimming senior teams being compelled to have a 20% black participation by 2008 and junior teams a 50% black participation. If quotas were not met, per the document, the squads would face not being ratified.
The medium-term goal was to ‘ensure that every structure and substructure within Swimming South Africa has a development program aimed at increasing black participation within the structure/substructure.’ This included each club including a specific program aimed at developing black coaches, technical officials and administrators, with all Category 1 Provincial Boards, Technical and Selection Committees and Executive having at least 50% black representation by 2005.
The aforementioned are just some examples of the regulations imposed within the nation’s clubs to address the post-apartheid aquatic participation gap within the nation. With the 2019 National Team Selection criteria, however, it’s apparent that Swimming South Africa believes there is a need to continue addressing this issue.