Csaba Gercsak is set to compete in his second Olympics.
June 18, 2012
By John Lock
Three Southern Illinois swimmers have qualified for the 2012 Olympic Games for their respective countries. Pamela Benitez (El Salvador), Csaba Gercsak (Hungary) and Mazen Aziz (Egypt) will all compete in the 2012 London games.
"How proud can a coach be?" head coach Rick Walker said. "This is the spectacle of all spectacles. Having three Saluki swimmers in the Olympics says a lot about the effort they have put in and our program as a whole."
Gercsak and Aziz are the first SIU swimming Olympians since Chrysanthos Papachrysanthou swam in the 2000 and 2004 games. It marks the first time two Saluki male swimmers have qualified for the Olympics since three qualified for the 1988 games. Benitez is the first SIU female swimmer to qualify for the games since Antonia Mahaira (Greece) in 1996 and just the fourth female swimmer in the history of the program.
Gercsak swam in the 2008 games before he joined Southern. He was a bronze medalist at the 2011 World Swimming Championships in the 25-kilometer swim. He is a two-time second-team All-Conference performer in the Mid-American Conference. He has won 18 events in his two seasons in Carbondale. Aziz also swam at the 2011 World Swimming Championships.
Benitez started swimming for SIU in January, and she won 12 events in a row after placing fourth in her first career event. She was a first-team All-Conference honors for top-three finishes in three events at the Missouri Valley Conference Championships. Benitez has competed at the World Swimming Championships in 2011; the Central American Games in 2006, 2009, and 2010; and the Pan-American Games in 2007 and 2011.
"Justin gets a chance to swim in an event that even faster than the Olympics because of the depth and talent the USA has," Walker said. "All four of these athletes get an incredible opportunity this summer."