The best swimmers in the country have flocked to Gqeberha, not only to compete in the South African National Aquatic Championships but also to book their tickets for the 2021 Olympics in Tokyo later this year.

The cream of the crop including athletes like Chad le Cloe and Tatiana Schoeman have graced the shores to show off their talent and secure their spot for July.

Local talent is represented by the Basson twins. The city has worked around the clock to ensure the Newton Park Pool was up to Fédération Internationale de Natation’s (FINA) standards. Alongside that, COVID-19 compliance was strictly enforced, with swimmers being kept in a bubble environment.

It is day one and already a South African record was broken. Tajana Schoenmaker bested her record in the 50m breaststroke heat.

South African Aquatic championships got off to a great start in Gqeberha:

The A qualifying times vary for each event. Anyone who matches or improves the qualifying times secures a spot for the Olympics in Tokyo.

South African Swimming Head Coach, Graham Hill, says he is impressed with what he has seen so far.

“Great performance by Tatjana Schoenmaker this morning, breaking the South African record on the 50 breaststroke. So, we’re off to a pretty good start. We hope to get some more qualifiers onto the team and we are going to be pushing for some relays to qualify for the Olympics as well, especially for the women’s 4×1 free and the women’s 4×1 medley relay.”

The National Champs are considerably smaller this year due to COVID-19-related complications.

CEO of Swimming South Africa, Shaun Adriaanse, says that keeping the swimmers safe is a top priority.

“We had reduced the numbers, particularly for this competition. Normally, we have over 500 swimmers participants taking part in this competition. So, after much deliberation, we decided to split the competition. We have all the top qualifiers. We said they can attend the Olympic trials, which is this event and in addition, we have had a few events around the country with the same qualifying standard.”

The City made headlines for wrong reasons in 2013 when the Newton Park Swimming pool’s water turned green during a gala.

The MMC for sport in the metro, Helga van Staden, says they have learned from their mistakes and it is all systems go.

“This time around, we are a little bit more prepared. We have learned expensive lessons during 2013. We are now confident that we have got the necessary guidance from aquatics in the metro. They have guided us that we need to be FINA compliant. They assisted in getting us a new starting block, water temperature just right.”

This competition concludes on Monday.