Thursday, July 28, 2005

Africa making waves in pool. Quotes from David Salo, author and Irvine Nova coach

David Salo is quoted in today's trib in the article about the rise of swimming medalists from Africa. David authored a technical swim training book, Sprint Salo, that I published. That was the second book I published. The indie imprint was called Sports Support Syndicate. The book is now out of print. I get requests for it every other week or so.

Africa making waves in pool - "The move surprised U.S. men's coach Dave Salo.

'It's disappointing,' he said before Michael Phelps led the Americans to a relay victory. 'Our guys want to win the gold, but they want to win against the best.'

The other point that is behind the text of the article is Jonty Skinner, a world-record swimmer in 1976. Jonty's home is South Africa. In 1976 he set a world record at the US National Championships in the 100-meter free in a meet in Phili. South Africa was not permitted to compete in the Olympics that year. Jonty was a scholarship swimmer at Alabama.

The first book I ever published, Tide Teamwork, was authored by Jonty Skinner. It is a swim training book too.

However, Tide Teamwork and SprintSalo are at two different ends of the spectrum in terms of workouts and coaching philosophy. Both books are great and were perfect for their time. Each helped to advance the realm of understanding in the sport of swimming and offered plenty of groundwork for a sustained discussion.

In the days to come, we'll be in Irvine, California, at Dave Salo's pool to watch a bit of the US National Swimming Championships.

It is great to see the world send its best and brightest to America for education and competition with swimming. One of my biggest hopes is that those in Allegheny County can keep up.


Anonymous said...

Africa making waves in pool

By The Associated Press
Thursday, July 28, 2005

MONTREAL -- Roland Schoeman had just set a world record and won a gold medal at the World Swimming Championships. He took the dais and proclaimed, "Not bad for an African."

He's not alone.

Hardly viewed as a swimming superpower, Africa is making waves in the pool.

Heading into the fourth day of the meet, African swimmers had won a total of five medals. By comparison, the United States has 12 medals overall and Australia eight.

That exceeds what the continent won at 10 previous world championships, and the Africans' success has been even greater at the Olympics.

Many of the top swimmers honed their skills at American colleges and train in the United States, making them African in passport only.

Kirsty Coventry of Zimbabwe attends Auburn University in Alabama. She has won a gold and a silver in Montreal.

Oussama Mellouli of Tunisia, who attends the University of Southern California, has a bronze. Schoeman, who won three medals at the Athens Olympics and trains in South Florida, has set two world records this week. Countryman Ryk Neethling has two bronze medals.

The Africans were shut out at the first eight world championships, beginning in 1973. Schoeman broke the barrier in 2001, earning bronze in the 50-meter freestyle.

Mellouli followed in 2003 with a bronze in the 400 individual medley. Johannes Zandberg of South Africa was third in the 50 backstroke that year, too.

Africans have done even better at the Olympics, highlighted by South African Penny Heyns' sweep of the 100 and 200 breaststrokes at the 1996 Atlanta Games.

In Athens, Coventry won the 200 backstroke, while Neethling, Schoeman, Darian Townsend and Lyndon Ferns stunned Australia and the United States to win the 400 free relay.

"You can be African and world class and the swimmers are proving it," Neethling said. "It's just going to get better and better because I don't see us getting any slower."

But still there are problems.

Coming off its Olympic triumph, South Africa didn't enter a team in the 400 free relay in Montreal. Townsend was swimming 2 seconds slower than he did in Athens and Ferns wasn't available, making officials uncomfortable with the team's medal potential.

So, Neethling and Schoeman were left to swim their individual events.

The move surprised U.S. men's coach Dave Salo.

"It's disappointing," he said before Michael Phelps led the Americans to a relay victory. "Our guys want to win the gold, but they want to win against the best."

Schoeman, who started his career in the grueling 1,500 free, has switched to the shorter races.

"I'd like to dominate the sprints in the future," he said.

Coventry won gold, silver and bronze medals at the Athens Games -- her country's first swimming medals. She speaks with a mostly American accent.

Zimbabwe won its only other Olympic medal, a gold in field hockey, at the boycotted 1980 Moscow Games.

Coventry doesn't like to discuss her country's official hate campaign against its small white community, although the nation honored her with a ceremony in Harare after the Olympics. She returns there in the summer to be with her family.

Coventry is white, as are Schoeman and Neethling. Mellouli is an Arab.

South Africa was readmitted to the Olympics in 1992 after being banned for several decades for its apartheid policy, which kept blacks separated from the white minority and denied them political rights.

Neethling moved back to Johannesburg after the Athens Games to capitalize on winning the relay gold medal. He had been training in Tucson, where he attended the University of Arizona.

Over the past decade, South African performances have improved dramatically and led to the emergence of swimmers such as Mellouli, Salim Iles of Algeria and Rania El Wani of Egypt -- all from North African countries where the sport is not very popular.

"My government has always been really great in supporting me financially," said Mellouli, who speaks impeccable English. "Hopefully, Tunisia will be the next emerging country in swimming."

Iles didn't advance out of the 100 free semifinals last night. He trains in Berkeley, Calif., and France.

"Most of the fast swimmers from Africa train overseas," Iles said. "They don't train at home because otherwise they wouldn't be able to compete internationally."

No South African women qualified for the world championships or the Athens Olympics, and the country's national swimming organization wants to avoid a repeat in 2008.

A special relay project for women is underway, with the short-term goal of winning a medal in the 800 free relay at next year's Commonwealth Games in Melbourne. Longer term, the country wants to give young women an incentive to become swimmers.

Iles believes Africans will have a breakthrough at the 2008 Beijing Games.

"They're on an upward curve and it's giving them confidence, so I think they'll be there," he said.

Coventry looks forward to the day when African swimmers have the resources to train in their own countries.

"In Africa, we have the facilities, but we don't have enough coaches," she said. "But it's exciting to show you can do it."

Cal Bentz said...

I saw no mention of Penny Heyns, Peter Williams and/or Helene Muller. Check out where they swam and the group of fine coaches who worked with them in the U.S. and Canada.

Cal Bentz, retired
Head Swimming Coach
University of Nebraska