International Stars

Beside the Olympic and World Champions, South African swimming has produced an number of other notable individuals. Below are just few of the more colourful ones.

Aside from those listed below are many more noteworthy Springbok swimmers - the heroes of South African swimming - who never had the chance to compete. These including Annette Cowley, Karen van Helden, Dianne Ludorf, Esme Oosthuisen, Dougie Eager and more. Some - like Simon Gray, Jon Jon Parks, Michael Windisch and Sarah Poewe swam in the Olympics - for other countries. Some - like Cowley and Gary Brinkman - tried unsuccessfully to achieve selection in foreign countries. A number of those achieved the notable standard of All Americans in the US NCAA Championships.

Princess Charlene of Monaco - South African 2000 Olympian

The former Rhodesian, and Benoni, local - like Charlize Theron - competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games where the South African women's 4x100m medley relay team of Charlene Wittstock, Sarah Poewe, Heleen Muller and Mandy Loots finished a very creditable 5th. She swam the 2011 Midmar Mile, and continues taking an active interest in open water swimming. 

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Graham Johnston

Former Orange Free State Springbok swimmer and Olympian Graham Johnston was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1998. Today at 82 he is a masters swimming legend.  

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Lewis Pugh

Camps Bay and UCT graduate Lewis is the ultimate marathon man of swimming - having swum in place few would have considered possible (or sensible!) - to the North Pole and a glacial lake on Mount Everest. Being married to Capetonian girl Antoinette Malherbe makes him an adopted South African. 

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Paula Newby-Fraser

Another former Rhodesian, she grew up in Natal, swam for Natal schools in 1976, before becoming a legend in the Ironman World Championship triathlon in Hawaii, which she won a record 8 times.  

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Sarah Poewe

A graduate from the Deutsche Schule in Cape Town and coached by Karoly von Torros at Vineyard SC, Sarah won a string of international medals. Swimming for South Africa she won two golds at the FINA world championships in 2000, and in 2004 she won a bronze at the Athens Olympic Games - swimming for Germany.

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Simon Lessing

Springbok triathlete Simon Lessing was born in Cape Town, where his father was also his swim coach. He moved to Natal and finished school in 1988, being coached to win the SA triathlon championships under former swimmer David McCarney. A longtime political activist, he soon left South Africa to train in France with fellow Springboks Kevin Richards and Mandy Dean, under coach Andrew Dean. Using his British citizenship he went on to win the ITU Olympic Distance Triathlon World Championship in 1992, 1995, 1996, and 1998. In 1996 he broke the Olympic distance triathlon world record. 

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Jane Asher

Another masters legend - born in Nkana, Northern Rhodesia she attended Roedean Girls School in Johannesburg from 1938 -1947. She was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 2006, having set 70 FINA Masters world records, and the first swimmer to hold all the freestyle world records - short course and long course - at the same time. 

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Natalie Steward

Born in Pretoria in 1943, she grew up in Rhodesia, and later swam for Great Britain. In 1960 she set a world record in the Olympic trials, and later won a silver and a bronze medal at the 1960 Olympic Games in Rome.

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Cecil Colwin


A native of Port Elizabeth Cecil Colwin was the first professional swim coach in South Africa. He coached world record holder Ann Fairlie, and in 1956 the Springbok team bar one was coached by him. After leaving South Africa in 1971 (after bringing Frank Gray to the country) went to Australia and later to Canada, where he was to become an important figure in Canadian swimming. He was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1993.

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Jon Jon Park

After winning both races and setting new South African records in the 100m and 200m butterfly, at the 1976 nationals in Durban, Jon Jon went on the swim for Britain at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games. Here with father Reg and Arnold Schwarzenegger - both Mr Universe title holders.

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David Lowe

Dave was a Rhodesian swimmer who won 5 gold medals at the South African nationals in 1977, before taking up a scholarship at the University of Houston. In 1980 he was part of the British Olympic medley relay team at the Moscow Olympic Games, where they finished third, winning the bronze. In an ironic twist for Lowe - the victim of a sports boycott himself - the race was marred by the absence of the boycotting United States, who had previously won the event every time since its inception at the 1960 Games.

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Simon Gray


One of the famous Gray family - Simon won three gold medals for England at the 1978 Edmonton Commonwealth Games, before retiring to coach in Bloemfontein.

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Damon Kendrick

Damon was a Natal diver - and keen surfer - when in 1974 he suffered a shark attack that cost him an amputated lower leg. Undeterred - Damon carried on diving, making the Western Province team to nationals in 1979 while a student at UCT.Damon emigrated to Australia - where he participates in long distance swimming races - like the Rottnest Chanel swim and winning the 20km Geo Bay race in record time.

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Keri-Anne Payne

Keri-Anne born and grew up in Johannesburg, where she swam with coach Di Williamson. She started swimming aged four, and was noticed aged eight by British Swimming's national performance director Bill Sweetenham at a training camp in South Africa. As a result, the family returned to the UK to live in Heywood, Greater Manchester, when she was 13. Her best early performances were in the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games 10 km open water event, in which was placed second, winning a silver medal for Great  Britain. At the 2009 World Aquatics Championships, held in Rome, she won the 10km swim.

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Corney Swanepoel

Another South African export - New Zealand butterflyer from Potchefstroom and coach Karoly von Torros of Vineyard SC in Cape Town. After his family emigrated he set national records in New Zealand, and swam at the 2004 and 2008 Olympics - finishing 12th in the 100 fly in Beijing.

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