International Aquatic Champions of South Africa


The diaspora of swimmers from South Africa which began durning the 1950's produced some international aquatic champions.These including a Princess, a couple of Masters legends, triathletes, coaches, an administrator and a famous environmentalist.

Graham Johnston

Former Orange Free State Springbok swimmer and Olympian Graham Johnston was inducted into the International Swimming Hall of Fame in 1998 as a multiple world  record holder. Still breaking records at age 86 in 2017.


Charlene Wittstock

The former Bulawayo and Benoni resident is a South African champion backstroke swimmer who competed at the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games. She was part of  women's 4x100m medley relay team finished 5th. Her real claim to fame was marrying Prince Albert of Monaco and so became HRH Princess Charlene Grimaldi of Monaco.


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.

Lewis Pugh

Emigrating to South Africa at a young age, Lewis is a Camps Bay High and UCT graduate, and an environmentalist of international fame. He has swum in place few would have considered possible (or sensible!) - to the North Pole and a glacial lake on Mount Everest. 

Paula Newby-Fraser

Born in Rhodesian, Paula grew up in Durban and swam for Natal, before becoming a legend in the Ironman Triathlon World Championship, which she won a record 8 times.


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.

Mandy Dean

Amanda B├╝chner - or Mandy Dean as she later became known - was an Eastern Province backstroke swimmer who later became an international triathlete. With German ancestry, she competed for Germany at two World Triathlon Championships, finishing 16th in 1990. 


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.

Cecil Colwin

International Swimming Hall of Fame inductee and Canadian Olympic coach Cecil Colwin was born in Port Elizabeth, moving to the Transvaal, where he worked as a professional swimming coach based at the Summit Club in Hillbrow. He was the coach of almost the entire Springbok team to the 1956 Olympic Games.


Harry Getz

Harry Getz, president of the South African Amateur Swimming Union (SAASU) and executive member of International Swimming Federation (FINA) was named chief judge of Swimming at both the 1964 Tokyo and 1968 Mexico Olympic Games, despite the exclusion of South African athletes.

Jon Jon Park

Parktown Boys High graduate Jon Jon Park, son of Mr Universe Reg Park,  set new South African records in the 100m and 200m butterfly at the 1976 nationals in Durban, before going to swim for Britain at the 1976 Montreal Olympic Games.


Simon Gray

When Ryk Neethling broke the South African 1500m freestyle record in 1994, it was the mark set by his coach Simon Gray at the South African swimming championships at Durban in March 1976. As a ten year old Simon challenged Lee McGregor in the 1500 at the 1972. Born in England, Simon went on to swim and medal at the 1978 Commonwealth Games and represent Great Britain as the 1980 Olympic Games.


Gary Brinkman

Gary was a Springbok swimmer from Amanzimtoti, who three titles at the US Swimming Championships in 1984. His international renown - or notoriety - comes more from his actions outside the pool more than in it.


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. He became the first British swimmer to go under 50 seconds, and in 1980 he was part of the bronze medal winning British medley relay team at the Moscow Olympic Games.


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. 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.

Keri-anne Payne

British Open Water Champion Keri-anne Payne was born and grew up in Johannesburg in 1987, where she swam with local 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.

Corney Swanepoel

Corney Swanepoel hails from Potchefstroom and swam with 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.

Romina Armellini

Born in Johannesburg, Romina is a swimmer who was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer - and survived, to swim at the Olympic Games, for Italy. 


Sarah Harris

Seri Harris is a Reddam graduate from Cape Town who represented both South Africa and the Australia in water polo, playing four years at the Arizona State University, before emigrating to Australia. Later she returned home to Cape Town, where she started a water polo academy.

Michelle Williams

Born in Pretoria, her family emigrated to Canada, where they settled in Toronto. She began swimming at age 8, and represented Canada at the 2016 Olympic Games, where she was part of their silver medal winning 4x100 freestyle relay team.

Jessica Pengelly

Jessica competed as South Africa's youngest swimmer (aged 17) in a medley double at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing. She emigrated to Perth, Western Australia in 2010, after completing high school, and in 2014 she represented Australia at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Paul Blackbeard

The extraordinary talents of Paul Blackbeard have kept him in the international spotlight of aquatic sports long after he was a local hero of South African swimming and life saving. Today he still competes - in life saving, masters swimming and open water races.


Jonty Skinner

Jonty Skinner set a world record for the 100m freestyle in 1976, while a student at the university of Alabama. After university he emigrated to the USA, and began a career in coaching, becoming a US Olympic coach.

Libby Burrel

A former Eastern Province breaststroke swimmer, Libby coached swimming at the university of Stellenbosch, before moving to triathlon coaching. She was South Africa's triathlon coach in 2000, when the sport made its Olympic debut in Sydney, and she spent five years working with United States Triathlon. She works for the International Triathlon Union (ITU) as Director of Sport Development is the Canadian national triathlon coach.

David Parrington

Dave was a Rhodesian and South African diving champion, and a top rated diving coach in he USA today.