Comments

Articles on South Aquatic sports history

 

The history of aquatic sports in South Africa includes the story of Rhodesian swimming - and particularly diving, and their disappointing 1972 Olympic experiences. The history covers all FINA governed sports, plus lifesaving and bi/triathlons, because many swimmers also excelled in those disciplines. The Pools and Places where the history took place - including the exotic pool in Portuguese Mozambique - places the history in a geographical location.The Rhodesian ASA was apart of SAASU from 1920 until the creation of Zimbabwe in 1981. The list of Springboks falls under SAASU as the awarding body, while the sections on the history of the sports boycott is part of sports history generally. Since the visit of Ernest Cavill in 1898, many competitors, coaches and national teams have toured the country, and for a few years the world's best backstrokers, including Cathy Ferguson, Elaine tanner and Kiki Caron - came to compete again the world record holder - Karen Muir. The coaches who drive the sport are listed, although many have simply disappeared and are not remembered.


Sports

Swimming is the dominant aquatic sport in South Africa - second only to Athletics in the number of Olympic medals won by South African competitors. The world governing body - FINA - also governs the sports of diving, synchronized swimming and water polo, which was also the remit of SAASU, and now Swimming South Africa. Lifesaving has always been a part of the swimming scene, being one of the original underlying drivers for the development of the sport. Both surf and still water lifesaving attracted competitive swimmers, as a natural application of the same skills, while also excelled at biathlon (in South Africa that means running and swimming) and triathlons.

Read more

SAASU

SAASU

The English style of amateur sports organization was usually managed by men in blazers - and so the slightly mis-named South African amateur Swimming Union was established in late 1899 by the strictly amateur gentleman from the Cape Colony. At the time there was no country called "South Africa" - just two British colonies at the Cape and Natal, and two independent republics in the Orange free State and the Transvaal, who were invited join after hostilities ended, but the "South African" swimming championships and Currie Cup water polo tournament went ahead regardless - being abandoned in 1902 only on the news of Queen Victoria's passing during the event.

Read more

Pools and Places

South Africa might be known as a land of sunshine - but this belies the fact that most of the country experiences temperatures below zero. The Long street indoor remained the only indoor heated public pool in the country for many years, and the dominance of Natal aquatics at nationals is in part due to the hot weather and the availability of warm water for year-round swimming. Later the larger centres heated their outdoor 50m pools. Lifesaving was practiced at the many beaches along the coast, while swimmers inland had to make do with any available dam or river. The Red House River mile - swum since 1924 - continues to this day.

Read more

Springboks

Springboks

The ultimate goal for a South African sportsman was winning a Springbok blazer. From George Godfrey in 1912, to the last swimmers to be awarded the prize in 1991, when the water polo team also received their colours, being a Springbok made you a special person!  A number of competitors achieved double and even triple Springbok colours, like Paul Blackbeard (pictured) in swimming and lifesaving, as well as others like Kevin Richards and Lee McGregor. Coaches were also awarded the colours if they were chosen to accompany the Springbok team. In the post-1994 South Africa only rugby may still award the green and gold Springbok colours, although the new national symbol - Protea colours - is still a version of green and gold.

Read more

Exiles

The South African diaspora might be modern phenomenon, but swimmers have been leaving the country to compete overseas since the 1950's - most have never returned. American universities began offering foreign sportsmen scholarships to compete in their NCAA championships at that time, and a number of competitors accepted the offer of a free education, long before the international sports boycott became an issue. Today the realities of living and competing in South Africa have caused many to relocate, and in some cases to compete for their adopted countries. World record holder Jonty Skinner became a US Olympic coach - as did Rhodesian diving champion Dave Parrington. Natalie Steward - born in Cape town and a 1957 Rhodesian Sports star of the year nominee - won two medals at the 1960 Olympic Games  for Great Britain.

Read more

Coaches

Without an enthusiastic and knowledgeable coach few competitors would ever achieve their sporting objectives. The history of swimming in South Africa includes the story of the coaches who dedicated their whole lives to be there on the poolside every day. Jimmy Green of Pretoria was the first prominent coach in the country, coaching Jenny Maakal to an Olympic bronze medal in 1932. Few other coaches have ever had as much newsprint devoted to them, and as such we know very little about the coaches, whose names are seldom mentioned in the press.Over the years famous American coaches like Bob Kiphuth, Don Gambril and Doc Council, Dutch coach Jan Stender visited the country to impart their knowledge, while a host of others like Frank Gray, Clara Aurick, Jan Kooiman came to live and coach there. The well-known Canadian coach Cecil Colwin strated his career in Port Elizabeth.

Read more

Karen Muir

In August 1965 Karen Muir became the youngest person ever to set a new world in any discipline when she swam the 110 yards backstroke in 1m 08.7s at the ASA National Junior Championships in Blackpool, England. Still only in std.5, she was not allowed to swim in the ASA women's open event, so she set her first world record in the heats of the Juniors! Back home to Kimberley, she and coach Frank Gray prepared for the next season - when the 1964 Olympic Gold medallist Cathy Ferguson and silver medalist Kiki Caron came to compete against her. Before they could - 16 year old Ann Fairlie of Johannesburg broke Karen's world record! Karen was always going to become a doctor, so she gave up swimming at age 19 - after setting 15 world records, attend the University of Orange Free State medical school in 1971.

Read more

Tourists

Swimmers and coaches who traveled to South Africa made a considerable impact on the development of the sport locally. They came as individuals at first - Ernest Cavill in 1898, en route to Australia, 1920 British Olympic medallist Hilda James, while Australian, Japanese, Dutch and German teams also visited. In 1965 Cathy Ferguson, Kiki Caron and Elaine Tanner came to challenge Karen Muir, and the 1973 SA Games attracted various notables like David Wilkie. During the 1980's SAASU brought out various unofficial "teams" - usually retired competitors - although Scott Spann almost broke a world record in Durban when he visited in 1984. Notable coaches included Doc Councilman, Bob Kiphuth, Dereyk Snelling and others. American synchro star Amanda Norrish visited in 1976, and many others - although little record remains.

Read more

 


 

Lifesaving

One of the reasons for the development of swimming, and a part of the aquatic history of South Africa.

Continue Reading →

 

1990 - SA records and SA  Champions.

A complete set of South African Championship winners from 1900 - 1990  of swimming, diving, water  polo and synchro, as well as some Springboks and trophy winners. 

Continue Reading →

 

Histories

Books and academic articles about aquatic sports and the sports boycott.

Continue Reading →

 

Publications

Various magazine have been started to provide information about swimming .

Continue Reading →

 

Rhodesian ASA

Since 1920 competitors from Rhodesia competed in the South African nationals.

Continue Reading →

 

Portuguese Mozambique

A thriving swimming community in Lorenzo Marques had little impact in neighbouring South Africa.

Continue Reading →

More in this category: Bi and Triathlon »

            NEW CONTENT

Click on  to turn various layers on/off. Click on  to view larger map. Zoom into each coloured dot.