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