“We’re riding off the tail end of a good development phase but the number of Chad le Clos’s and Cameron van der Burghs will get less and less,” Price said this week. “We can look after the top four or five guys but we’re not developing new athletes.”
Since the 2008 Beijing Olympics, when the swimming team failed to grab a single medal, they have earned 13 medals at the World Aquatics Championships, including five gold, and bagged three medals at last year’s London Games.
In comparison, athletics, the country’s other high-profile Olympic sport since readmission, secured only eight medals at the last three global championships, and one silver at last year’s London Games.
And while SSA has managed to get by since Telkom opted not to renew its long-term deal last year, Price believes it’s only a matter of time before the shortage of funds is reflected in performances at international level.
It’s not as simple, according to Price, as finding a corporate partner that can throw money into the sport. They need a sponsor that will buy into the national federation’s long-term plans.
“The government and Sascoc fund the top-tier athletes and the Learn to Swim programme, but we need a partner to develop our future stars. “Any major sponsor would need to contribute for three or four years, and the return would be that they have the next superstar as part of their profile.”
He says many sports in South Africa are facing similar concerns Athletics SA is also without a major sponsor as corporates are interested in investing at grass roots and elite level, but not in long-term deals that could produce a new generation of stars.
“We need funding to develop athletes, and we’re not talking about token development,” he said.