Day 3 at the 2012 South African Olympic Trials in Durban highlighted the fuzziness of the South African Olympic standards. By letter-of-the-law, nobody earned an Olympic bid. However logic would think they’ll at least find a spot for Charl Crous in the 100 backstroke, and an 800 free relay.
Men’s 200 Freestyle
Chad le Clos, the fastest in each of the firs two rounds of this 200 free, scratched the final; which left a three-man race for the title. It was an outstanding race despite le Clos’ absence, but Darian Townsend, one of the most experienced swimmers on the SA men’s side, dropped the hammer on the final 50 meters to pull away from Tucson Ford training partner Jean Basson for the win in 1:47.88.
Basson, who held the lead for the entirety of the first 150 meters, ran out of gas and slid all the way back to third. Sebastien Rousseau nipped him at the touch with a 1:48.69, as compared to Basson’s 1:48.70.
Those three, along with le Clos, give the South Africans a fairly-formidable 800 free relay. None of the swimmers earned a FINA Automatic qualifying time outside of le Clos, and this scratch shows that he’s probably not swimming this race at the Olympics (a schedule of 100/200 fly, 200/400 IM, and relays is likely). Townsend just missed the cut by a hair – he may get a bid because he’ll be at the meet anyway.
But looking at a comparison the group they had last year (which was out in prelims), if these guys swim as well as they did in this meet, they’d certainly final.
Men’s 100 Back
Charl Crous shaved another little bit off of his best time in this 100 backstroke final to win in 54.17, which should give him a good shot at the Olympic Team (easily under the FINA “A” time). We’ve now seen a good (though not world-beating) front-half of this medley relay lineup with Crous and van der Burgh on breaststroke. The next question to be answered will be how good can Chad le Clos be in the 100 fly. We know he’s going to be good based on how well he’s swum at this meet and in the last year, but he needs to be 51-mid at this meet for them to really get juiced up about a relay medal.
Women’s 100 Back
Karin Prinsloo got within a fingernail of the South African National Record in the 100 back in the semi-finals, but couldn’t repeat the feet in finals and added to a 1:01.52. That still got her a win, but won’t give her a swim in London just yet.
19-year old Jessica Ashley-Cooper took 2nd in 1:02.47, which again destroyed a personal best for the swimmer who was at one time pegged to be a part of the Arizona Wildcats NCAA program.
Women’s 100 Breast
Suzaan van Biljon, who had the 5th-best time in the prelims of the 100 breaststroke in 2008, fell victim to increased qualifying standards at these Trials as well as a post-retirement hangover.
After taking a huge chunk of time off in 2009 and 2010 to focus on completing school, van Biljon has been back training for just over a year. Considering that, this swim of 1:08.76 is still a pretty good result for her. Like Prinsloo above though, the only chance at swimming this race in London will be if they get a medley relay in.
If we extrapolate a bit, that puts van Biljon probably outside of the Olympic qualifying mark in the 200 as well.
Chad le Close scratched the 200 free final to focus on this 200 fly, and he already looked really good with a 1:55.30. That puts him third in the world this year so far, but I think that even probably under a full taper, he’s got a 1:54.00 in him for finals.
Not far behind him, in what is a hugely-pleasant surprise, Sebastian Rousseau took second in 1:57.63 even without scratching the 200 free. So long as he doesn’t do something stupid on Thursday, like swim the 100 free semi-final just before this 200 fly, he could conceivably drop the 8-tenths he needs and hit a FINA A time as well, forcing the hand of Swimming South Africa on whether or not they should accept him for London.
He looked great at this race at December’s Winter Nationals though, so in that regard it’s not that big of a surprise.
Kathryn Meaklim lined up for a second Olympic stab (she should already have one in the 400 IM) with a top seed in the semi-final in 2:13.33. That already tops her swim from British Trials as the best of her career, and look for as low as a 2:11 in finals.
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