The Grand Prix

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - OCK­ERT DE VIL­LIERS

THERE seems to be a gen­eral lack of en­thu­si­asm for the Swim­ming SA (SSA) Grand Prix Se­ries judg­ing by the poor turnout at the Jo­han­nes­burg leg over the week­end.

Granted, swim­ming at al­ti­tude may not be con­ducive to fast times but is still an op­por­tu­nity to race in a World Cham­pi­onship year.

The meet at­tracted a lone Olympic swim­mer in Dou­glas Eras­mus while ris­ing star Mariella Ven­ter,

added some sparkle over the two days.

Dou­glas and Ven­ter won three medals apiece while they also pro­duced the clos­est to what could be con­sid­ered world-class times

Ven­ter, who nar­rowly missed out of se­lec­tion for the Rio Games when she swam 0.72 sec­onds short of the qual­i­fy­ing time in the 100m back­stroke, had her sights set firmly on earn­ing se­lec­tion for the Fina World Cham­pi­onships in Bu­dapest, Hungary later this year.

She posted a cred­itable time of 2:18.20 in the 200m back­stroke while she also fin­ished at the top of the podium in the 50m and 100m back­stroke.

Although the main aim was to qual­ify for the world cham­pi­onships, Ven­ter would also be look­ing for a podium place at the ju­nior edition in In­di­anapo­lis in Au­gust.

“I am still 17 this year, and I will try to get top four or three (at World Ju­nior Swim­ming Cham­pi­onships) de­pend­ing on my train­ing cy­cle and how ev­ery­thing evolves this sea­son,” Ven­ter said.

“World champs would be the goal, es­pe­cially get­ting those times that I wanted last year, so if I can do that it would be great.”

She won the 50m back­stroke in a time of 29.51s, and also touched first in the 100m back­stroke yes­ter­day in a time of 1:03.00 be­fore bag­ging sil­ver in the 50m but­ter­fly fin­ish­ing sec­ond be­hind Gabi Grob­ler (28.94s), clock­ing 29.18s.

Af­ter mak­ing his Olympic de­but in Rio de Janeiro in the 50m freestyle, where he crashed out in the heats, Eras­mus has set his sights on qual­i­fy­ing for this year’s World Cham­pi­onships in both the splash-and­dash event and the 100m.

Eras­mus swam per­sonal best times at last year’s SA Swim­ming Cham­pi­onships in Dur­ban where he clocked 22.26 sec­onds in the splash-and-dash event to qual­ify for the Games while also set­ting a new 100m freestyle PB of 49.54s.

The 26-year-old opened his sea­son with a 100m freestyle time of 50.53s at the El­lis Park Swim­ming Pool be­fore rounded off his Satur­day swim­ming with a 50m but­ter­fly vic­tory in a time of 24.98s.

“I am ex­tremely happy, I didn’t ex­pect that my­self, at this stage of train­ing you don’t know where you are go­ing to be at,” Eras­mus said.

“In the 50m I’ve done the time a few times, so the fo­cus is to con­stantly un­der the time and try and win.”

Yes­ter­day Eras­mus won his spe­cial­ist 50m freestyle event in a time of 22.87s to fin­ish the gala with three gold medals in the bag.

The next stop on the four­legged Grand Prix Se­ries is in Dur­ban on Fe­bru­ary 4 and 5 where more of the coun­try’s top swim­mers are ex­pected to make an ap­pear­ance in­clud­ing Olympic gold medal­list Chad le Clos.

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