Coach Hill laments tal­ent

It’s back to the fu­ture. Wanted: A new gen­er­a­tion to rule in the pool for SA

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - OCKERT DE VILLIERS

NA­TIONAL coach Gra­ham Hill warns that South African swim­ming is in a state of stag­na­tion and sug­gests the coun­try needs to catch up to world stan­dards or be left be­hind.

Hill, re­cently ex­tended his con­tract by five years and is ready to crack the whip to get the sport back into shape.

South Africa have been re­ly­ing on the hero­ics of their two global su­per­stars, Olympic gold medal­lists Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh, to pro­duce the goods at ma­jor cham­pi­onships.

The coun­try only man­aged to qual­ify five swim­mers in the pool for the pre­vi­ous Fina World Swim­ming Cham­pi­onships in Kazan, Rus­sia, with­out a sin­gle fe­male earn­ing se­lec­tion.

Again car­ry­ing the swim­ming team, Le Clos won sil­ver in the 100m but­ter­fly and 200m freestyle, while Van der Burgh fin­ished sec­ond in the 100 breast­stroke, and Brad Tandy was the only other swim­mer to make it into a fi­nal in the 50m free.

Speak­ing to In­de­pen­dent Me­dia after ad­dress­ing lo­cal coaches at Tuk­sS­port in Pre­to­ria on what it re­quired from a coach to pro­duce world-class ath­letes, Hill said: “The prob­lem is that we are think­ing too much about the lit­tle co­coons we are in and not look­ing at the big­ger pic­ture that is world swim­ming.

“I’ve al­ways com­pared my ath­letes with the world’s (best), and if I had to com­pare with lo­cals, I don’t think they will get any­where.

“We have to look out­side the co­coon and look at the world stage.

“If we help ath­letes and the coaches to un­der­stand that we need to look at world per­for­mances, we can make mas­sive im­prove­ments.”

Hill said part of the prob­lem was that many coaches showed lit­tle in­ter­est in grad­u­at­ing swim­mers to se­nior level, which re­quires more time, money and ded­i­ca­tion.

“We coach great, tal­ented swim­mers to the age of 15, then we don’t coach the 16-, 17-, 18-year-olds to the next level,” he said.

“We get stuck at the age­group level and are not push­ing them fur­ther and higher than that.”

South African swim­mers have a busy year ahead with the world cham­pi­onships in Bu­dapest, Hun­gary, in July be­fore bring­ing the cur­tain down on 2017 with the Com­mon­wealth Games tri­als in De­cem­ber.

Look­ing at the big­ger pic­ture, South Africa need to pro­duce the next gen­er­a­tion of medal con­tenders for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Hill said that as head coach of South African swim­ming, he ex­pects to ruf­fle some feath­ers to whip the sport back into shape.

“I’ll prob­a­bly be­come the most un­pop­u­lar guy in the coun­try but I need to start push­ing coaches a lot harder and in the right di­rec­tion,” Hill said.

“It is not about turn­ing peo­ple against me but to show them what I am talk­ing about and make them re­alise it is not (about) Gra­ham Hill.

“It is the way the world is mov­ing and we need to play catch-up. We are be­hind, so we need to move faster, think faster and do it a lot bet­ter, at twice the speed of the rest of the world.”

Hill, who coached Le Clos from a young age be­fore they parted ways last year, said he ex­pected the same stal­warts to rep­re­sent the coun­try in Hun­gary, high­light­ing the state of the sport.

“It will pos­si­bly be the same five or six swim­mers, so we are not mak­ing in­roads into the new gen­er­a­tion,” he said.

“I hope that will change for the Com­mon­wealth Games next year.” IM­PRES­SIVE: Nine­teen years after mak­ing her Aus­tralian Open de­but, Venus Wil­liams cashed in on the ex­pe­ri­ence of 73 Grand Slams to beat Anas­ta­sia Pav­lyuchenkova yes­ter­day.

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