Promising South African swimmer quits as funding dries up

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Swimmer Zane Waddell has revealed that he has had to give up on his Olympic dreams after funding for the athlete dried up.

Waddell has taken on a day job as a credit analyst at a bank and says that he doesn’t have the time or the resources to continue pushing for a place at the Olympics.

South African swimmer quits

He was the only male athlete from the whole of Africa to claim a gold medal at the World Championships in Gwangju in 2019 but his success came in the 50 metre backstroke which is not an Olympic event.

“It was certainly a tough decision to make, but I had conversations with my family and it was the right decision,” Waddell told New Frame. “It is tough, but it does not help being naive and getting myself into a deeper hole. This is the logical decision to make.”

Waddell says that he reached out to the Olympic committee and corporate sponsors for backing but was left disappointed.

“They (Sascoc) gave assistance to get to some competitions at which I represented them. For the 2019 World Championships, I had to pay a portion of my way there. 

“[After the championships] and being the only African male to get a gold medal, I asked for further assistance but I was not given further assistance. I have reached out to multiple corporate sponsors to no avail. Covid-19 must be making it hard,” he said.

Swimming’s future in doubt

The crestfallen 22-year-old fears for the future of the sport that has brought so much Olympic glory to South Africa.

“I sent an email to Nkuli [Mngadi], our team manager at the World Championships in Gwangju, on 25 September 2019 asking about funding. She said she’ll forward my email on to people at Swimming SA, which she did. On 26 September 2019, I was let known via email that they had a call scheduled in October of 2019 to discuss funding for the upcoming Olympics.

“On 11 October 2019, I was told via email that I won’t get funding to help me train for the Olympics. The reason was as follows: ‘You won’t get funding because the 50 back [50m backstroke] is not an Olympic event, and they’re only funding athletes who are top eight in the world in Olympic events.’

“I was sad and shocked because I was the only male African athlete to get a gold at the World Championships. And to have achieved something like that and then get told I won’t get funding because it wasn’t an Olympic event kind of felt like it invalidated my achievement in Gwangju,” said Waddell.

“It is extremely frustrating, but we have to remember that I am not the first swimmer to struggle with this. I hope it changes in the future for young South African swimmers coming through the system.

“I believe many swimmers will have to make a similar decision. It is important to remember that effort in the pool does not pay the bills at the end of the month,” he added. 

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