As one of the flagship codes at multi-sport events, and traditionally one of South Africa’s strongest, swimming will once again feature prominently at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
The nation’s golden boy of the pool, Chad le Clos, has grabbed the headlines in the build-up with his record-breaking attempt at the Games.
The superstar has set his sights on securing 18 medals or more to become the most decorated athlete in the history of the quadrennial showpiece.
Spearheaded by Le Clos, here’s a look at SA’s top medal prospects in the pool.
Chad le Clos
South Africa’s fly guy will be swimming in five individual events and three relays at the Games, hoping to add at least six more medals to his tally of 12 from Delhi 2010 and Glasgow 2014.
He is in for a rough ride, potentially swimming in as many as 18 races in his pursuit of a history-making achievement.
Competing in the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly, as well as the 100m and 200m freestyle, his record-breaking attempt could come down to the relay events where he will need some assistance from his teammates.
“I’ve always wanted to swim the 100m freestyle final against top opposition, shaven, tapered and rested. This is actually the first time I’m doing that ever, so I am hoping to get onto the podium.” – Le Clos
Cameron van der Burgh
The unsung hero of South African swimming will dip his toe into the pool at the Commonwealth Games one last time.
Van der Burgh has shown incredible longevity in one of the toughest strokes in swimming and he will look to win his third straight 50m breaststroke title in his final Games.
English phenom Adam Peaty has been somewhat of a fly in the ointment since the 2014 Glasgow Games, where he usurped Van der Burgh of his 100m crown.
While world record holder Peaty looks almost unbeatable over the longer distance, however, he may find some resistance from Van der Burgh in the sprint event.
“This is going to be a special one to me. It is going to be my last Commonwealth Games before I probably retire after Tokyo (2020 Olympics), so I am taking this one with quite a bit of seriousness but also enjoyment, just taking in the team environment. I am looking forward to just seeing the South African flag raised and singing the anthem one last time.” – Van der Burgh.
South African women’s swimming has been stuck in the doldrums in recent years but the emergence of a few promising talents could finally see another woman from local shores stepping on the podium at a major championship.
The previous Commonwealth Games, in Glasgow four years ago, marked the first time since the Kuala Lumpur edition in 1998 that a South African woman failed to bag a medal in the pool.
Breaststroke specialist Schoenmaker may just be the one to break the cycle after her World Student Games 200m silver medal last year provided a reason for optimism.
Her personal best time of 2:24.61, which she posted at the university spectacle, ranks her among the top five women in the Commonwealth over four lengths and she should have a real chance of reaching the podium.