African record for Coetzé as Van Niekerk powers into breaststroke final

Teenage sensation Pieter Coetzé came within just a few splits of a medal in the 100m backstroke at the World Short Course Championships in Melbourne on Wednesday. He nevertheless... Read more
African record for Coetzé as Van Niekerk powers into breaststroke final

Teenage sensation Pieter Coetzé came within just a few splits of a medal in the 100m backstroke at the World Short Course Championships in Melbourne on Wednesday. He nevertheless managed to set another African record on his way to fourth place.

The 18-year-old had lowered the continental mark to 49.85 in the semifinal on Tuesday and went even quicker in the final, setting a new record of 49.60, just eight hundredths of a second behind bronze medallist Isaac Cooper of Australia.

The race was won American Ryan Murphy in a new championship record of 48.50 – Murphy becoming the second fastest swimmer in the history of the event – while Italian Lorenzo Mora took the silver in 49.04.

Later in the evening Chad le Clos finished fifth in the 50m butterfly final. The 30-year-old, who boasts an incredible 18 world short course medals, is not known for the sprint distances, rather focusing on the 100 and 200m butterfly, but still managed to make it to the final.

Le Clos had a problem with his swimsuit just before the start of the race and reached the 25m turn in eighth place. That left too much to do in the second 25m and he finished fifth in 22.11.

The race was won by 42-year-old two-time defending champion Nicholas Santos of Brazil in a championship record time of 21.78. Switzerland’s Noe Ponti took the silver in 21.96 and Hungary’s Szebasztian Szabo the bronze in 21.98.

Earlier in the day, double Commonwealth Games gold medallist Lara van Niekerk, who is making a return to international competition after foot surgery, was the only South African to progress through the morning heats. The 19-year-old powered to victory in her 100m breaststroke heat in a speedy 1:03.93 to qualify second fastest for the semifinals, coming within four hundredths of a second of Tatjana Schoenmaker’s national and continental record.

Lara van Niekerk, Photo: FINA

Van Niekerk was slightly slower in her semifinal, finishing joint second in 1:04.36 to qualify joint fifth fastest for Thursday’s final.

“It was quite cold, but I just tried to stay as warm as possible,” said Van Niekerk from an unseasonably chilly Melbourne. “I think this morning my stroke was a bit more relaxed. I think I rushed a bit tonight [in the semifinal] so tomorrow I’ll just try and have that long, relaxed stroke again… It’s going to take a 1:03 to medal,” she added.

Meanwhile, Stephanie Houtman won the opening heat of the women’s 800m freestyle in 8:39.15 which saw her finishing 15th overall in the event.

Cailtin de Lange was 28th in the 100m freestyle in 54.47 and Clayton Jimmie finished 40th overall in the men’s 100m freestyle in 48.09.

Swimming action resumes on Thursday and continues until Sunday, 18 December.

Photo: FINA

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