Muir's water boys hit gold

UITENHAGE swimming twins Alaric and Alard Basson made it a double delight by returning this week with a clutch of medals from the Africa Youth Games in Gaborone, Botswana.

The 18-year-old Muir College matric pupils were part of the SA aquatics team which dominated the pool, bringing home 26 medals, of which 13 were gold, well ahead of Egypt's haul of 10 medals.

The Bassons contributed in no small measure to their SA team's success, with Alard picking up two golds (50m and 100m butterfly), a silver (4x50m relay) and a bronze (50m breaststroke), while Alaric earned a gold (100m breaststroke) and two silvers (4x50m freestyle relay, 50m breaststroke).

Another Eastern Cape sportsman, Luigy van Jaarsveld, was also in the gold medal circle, with the Marlow eighthman and EP Country Districts Craven Week captain being a member of the winning sevens rugby team.

The baby Blitzboks crushed Kenya 60-0 in the final and did not concede a point throughout the tournament.

Reflecting on his performances, Alaric said he was a bit disappointed at missing out on the 50m breaststroke gold, being fractionally edged out by Egypt's Mohamed Mohan Khalaf (29.45 seconds to 29.61) in the final.

"Besides that, I was pretty happy with the way things went," Alaric said, "especially after taking a bit of a break following the nationals [in April]."

Alard was pleased with his return, having achieved his goal of winning his major events, the 50m and 100m butterfly.

"I thought there would be tough competition and I was very happy to come through in my major events," Alard said.

Both swimmers, who are trained by PE Amateur club coach Mark Edge, have set their sights on the Youth Olympics to be staged in Nanjing, China, from August 14 to 28. "Yes, that is our target from now on," Alard said, "and we are just going to keep working hard to achieve that aim."

Their performances in Botswana may stand them in good stead, with SA team swimming coach Grant Kritzinger praising the team at the end of competition.

"I think this team stepped up to the plate and swam well," Kritzinger said. "It was a true team effort and I don't want to single anyone out.

"Almost all of these guys could have made finals at the upcoming Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, and there's a lot of talent we will see in the future."

The Bassons' immediate priority, though, is to knuckle down to the forthcoming school exams.

"I am ready for that, although I did not have much time to learn in Botswana," Alard said.

Asked how he balanced a hectic swimming programme with education, Alaric said: "We swim early in the morning and later at night and work in between. But luckily I am not too bad at my schoolwork." - Neale Emslie