Michelle Weber finished sixth at the FINA Open Water World Cup today in Setubal becoming the first South African female swimmer to qualify for the 2016 Olympics. Weber along with 12 other women earned their spots on the starting line of the 10 km open water event in Rio after today’s event in Portugal.
The 19 year old, who finished 19th in Kazan in the 10 km event, will be competing at her first Olympic Games.
Weber will be the only woman representing the country in the swimming events at the Olympics as there were no other female swimmers who qualified for the team at the South African Olympic Trials in April. At this point the team will be made up of 11 men and one woman.
Both Chad Ho and Troyden Prinsloo will be vying for a spot in the men’s 10 km tomorrow in Setubal.
The South Africans had three women compete in Kazan in the open water events, but did not have any representatives in the pool.
The reason for such a gap between the performances of the men and women in South Africa has been a hot topic of discussion since April. Jonty Skinner, who competed for South Africa and is the associate head coach at the University of Alabama, feels that the missing link may lie in more advanced strength training whereas 2012 Olympian Karin Prinsloo has expressed that she feels the team is currently in a development stage.
The South Africans had six female representatives at 2012 Olympics. Suzaan van Biljon, who finished eighth in the women’s 200 breaststroke, was their top performer. Before that point their greatest success came in 1996 when Penny Heyns won gold in both the 100 and 200 breaststroke.