More room for participation by swimmers with disabilities
Dea Slattery gives a report on the strong status of the past swimming season and says there is room for even more participation by swimmers with disability.
The past season has been good for swimmers with disability, with an increase in the number of registrations with SSA and development in many areas.
At the SSA Nationals where multi-disability events were held, there were three levels where swimmers with disability could compete. These were the Telkom Senior Nationals, Open B Nationals and Level 2 Nationals.
The Telkom Senior Nationals is for the elite swimmers with disability and here the qualifying time is the same as the one they must achieve for World Championships. The B National Championships require the swimmer to achieve a qualifying time equal to the one they have to achieve for their national Championships, and at Level 2 the swimmers do not have to achieve qualifying times, but they do have to be registered with Swimming South Africa (SSA).
This year for the first time the swimmers with disability could earn points for their Province/Club. This made a positive impact on the points total of teams that included swimmers with disability, something which will hopefully encourage more teams to include the disabled.
There were 18 elite swimmers with disability competing at these champs. They were from five different provinces, namely WP (2); NTS (2); MP (1); KZN (5) and CGA (8) and four of the swimmers from CGA were PDA. Again we must thank CGA, CGSAPD, Mandeville & Pick ‘n Pay for their assistance in getting the PDA swimmers to these championships.
Three new International Paralympic Committee (IPC) World records and one CISS (Deaf) World Record were set at these championships:
Natalie du Toit (2) – 800m Free IPC – Physically disabled
– 400m Free IPC
Tadhg Slattery – 50m Breaststroke IPC
Gregory Lessing – 200m Backstroke CISS – Deaf
All the swimmers with disability were included with the able swimmers and they competed as one team. The points for all the events were included in the overall points for the swimming. Both KZN and CGA benefited from these points as they had more swimmers with disability included in their teams.
The points to be allocated to a team when a disabled team member breaks a world record or a SA record should be agreed upon. At the Nationals there was a debate as to the points to be awarded to Tadhg Slattery for his world record. In the end he was awarded the points of an able SA record.
Here the swimmers had to achieve qualifying times before being able to compete. There were seven swimmers with disability swimming in Newcastle and they were all from one province – CGA. They were included in the team selection by the province and were treated as part of the team.
All swimmers with disability gained a great deal from this experience. Four of the swimmers were from the previously disadvantaged sector of the community and were there on merit. These swimmers do experience enormous difficulties with funding but the CGA executive were kind enough to sponsor half of their expenses, the other half came from a sponsorship by Mandeville Sports Club secured for the season from Pick ‘n Pay.
There were eight swimmers with disability, from CGA and Mpumalanga swimming at this championship.
There has been quite a bit of development in CGA over the past season. They have been using three different pools, Mandeville in winter and the Wits (old JCE campus) and Hope School pools in summer. Two Wits students, Claudia von Tutschek and Busisiwe Ntuli, Tadhg Slattery, Gregg Price and Dea Slattery worked voluntarily teaching and coaching the swimmers with disability.
There are now seven clubs with registered swimmers with disability – they are Omega; Eldorado Golden; Dolphins; Waterborne; Mustangs; Dolphins and Mandeville.
There are a number of swimmers with the potential to be selected for the Beijing Paralympics, but for this to happen they need assistance with coaching, transport to swimming training and the proper equipment. A number of swimmers are still swimming in their shorts as they do not have proper costumes. These swimmers need to be in a programme where they get regular training and do not have to rely on the volunteers.
Both the High Schools and Primary Schools Championships have multi disability events. They are now working towards the school leagues being inclusive.
There are qualifying times that the learners have to achieve. The events offered at Primary Schools are 50m Free, 50m Back and 50m Breast to the 8, 9 and 10 year-olds and the 11 and 12 year-olds. The High Schools offer 100m and 50m Free, 50m Breast, 50m Back and 50m Fly for 15 and under and 18 and under groups.