Coetzé storms to South Africa’s first world champs medal in Doha

A blisteringly quick final 50m in the 200m backstroke saw SA star Pieter Coetzé powering from eighth to third place to claim the country’s first medal at the World... Read more
Coetzé storms to South Africa’s first world champs medal in Doha

A blisteringly quick final 50m in the 200m backstroke saw SA star Pieter Coetzé powering from eighth to third place to claim the country’s first medal at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha on Friday night.

Swimming in lane eight, the 19-year-old reached the first turn in fifth but then dropped right back to last place by halfway and the 150m mark before making his move, out-touching American Jack Aikins at the finish to claim the bronze medal in a personal best time of 1 minute 55.99 seconds. Spain’s Hugo Gonzalez took gold in 1:55.30 and Switzerland’s Roman Mityukov the silver in 1:55.40.

Speaking about coming back from the disappointment of missing out on a podium place in the 100m backstroke final, Coetzé said: “I was a bit disappointed with the 100 and I decided to just trust my body and let it happen and it’s pretty unexpected so I’m very happy.”

Meanwhile, Erin Gallagher booked a place in her second final of the championships, finishing third in her 50m butterfly semifinal in 25.86 seconds to qualify sixth fastest for tomorrow night’s final.

“It’s really awesome… Looking back at my past world champs, to make two finals is honestly incredible and I’m just so blessed and grateful to God.

“I could definitely feel I was a little more tense than this morning. It kind of happened in slow motion but also at a million miles an hour at the same time. So I think tomorrow night the plan is to just go in as relaxed as possible and try and execute my race a little bit better. I know there are a few things I could improve on tonight but luckily they happened in a semifinal and hopefully I can improve on them for tomorrow night’s race.”

Earlier in the evening, veteran Chad le Clos made a statement by winning his 100m butterfly semifinal. The 2013 and 2015 world champion in the event finished ahead of the pack in a time of 51.07 seconds, but four swimmers dipped under that time in the second semifinal, meaning Le Clos will have a tough task ahead in Saturday night’s final if he is to reach his eighth long course World Championships podium.

Fellow South African Matt Sates contested the same semifinal as Le Clos but finished in fifth place in 51.99 seconds and 10th overall, so missing out on a spot in Saturday night’s final.

“I’m feeling excellent,” said Le Clos afterwards. “Fresh off Erin’s qualification for the final, she’s had an amazing week so far, and also Pieter’s historic 200 backstroke from lane eight, bronze medal – massive congrats to him.

“I’m massively inspired to be around this team and, of course, me making my first world champs final in the last four years, so it’s great to be back in the final and it’s going to be a humdinger tomorrow night.

“I’m going to need something special, I’m going to need the power of the nation behind me tomorrow night to bring back that medal, the gold if possible, because it’s going to be a tough field… I love a final, I love a dogfight, I love a scrap, I love to bleed and that’s what it’s going to be tomorrow night.”

Meanwhile, making her first appearance in a World Championships semifinal was Hannah Pearse. The 20-year-old finished fifth in her morning heat of the 200m backstroke in 2:13.26 to reach the semifinal and then swam 2:13.29 to finish in eighth place.

The only other South African in action on Friday was Clayton Jimmie, who produced a personal best performance to win his 50m freestyle heat in a time of 22.33 seconds. It was not quick enough to see him through to the evening semifinals, however after finishing 31st overall.

World Aquatics Championships action continues on Saturday with Gallagher and Emma Chelius scheduled to compete in the 50m freestyle heats, Coetzé in

the 50m backstroke and Lara van Niekerk in the 50m breaststroke while South

Africa will also field a team in the mixed 4x100m freestyle relay heats.

Photo: Anton Geyser/SA Sports Images

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