Big thanks to Karien Jonckheere for contributing to this report. Karien is a South African freelance sports journalist who, among other accomplishments, was one of three chief writers of the official daily Olympic and Paralympic programs and magazines.
There were no qualifiers on the first day of the 2013 South African National Championships (full day 1 session recap available here), but at least one swimmer could have hit his qualifying time perhaps: had he been able to see.
The pool in Port Elizabeth was bright green when most of the swimmers arrived for pre-meet warmups on Sunday, and by Monday when the meet began, the condition hadn’t improved much.
Myles Brown won the men’s 400 free in 3:49.80, which was exactly a quarter-of-a-second away from the FINA Automatic Qualifying Time that the South Africans have implemented as their qualifying time standard.
“I’ve been in great form leading up to this, but I swam into the lane rope a couple of times tonight,” Brown said of the water condition. “My last turn was really bad. I turned right on the wall and I had a terrible finish. To miss out by .25 is quite hard. I just couldn’t see anything.”
“My turns aren’t the best anyway but it was even worse because I couldn’t see anything. I think I could have easily qualified if the water was a bit clearer.”
When asked about the condition of the pool, Swimming South Africa CEO Shaun Adriaanse said “We are engaging with the municipality to make sure that the pool is ready by tomorrow and that the water is clear. If it’s not we will have to review alternatives, maybe delay it slightly or something like that.
“When we looked at it yesterday we thought that it would be ok overnight. We thought it would be better this morning. Also, initially some of the feedback that we got from the swimmers was that it was bad but it was ok to swim in, but we’ll have to relook at that.”
An initial request for comment from the Swimming South Africa media relations staff on Sunday goes yet unreturned as of original posting.
Brown’s time did hit the FINA B qualifying standard, so from the perspective of the international governing body FINA, he is eligible to swim at the World Championships. That means that under global rules, at least, there is some leeway for South Africa to grant a reprieve based on the circumstances, though the federation’s own qualifying rules specifically state that nobody would qualify with less than an “A” time.