Dune Coetzee, one of the rising stars of South African swimming, has decided to continue her career in the United States after next year’s Tokyo Olympics.
The 18-year-old has not lost a butterfly race in South Africa for three years but she know she needs to get even faster if she is to reach her full potential.
‘There were a lot of things I had to take into consideration, but in the end, I realised the best for me would be to go to the USA,’ the Tuks-based swimmer said.
She will follow the path of other South Africans like Neil Versfeld, Sarah Poewe and Wendy Trott and attend the University of Georgia, where Versfeld is now an assistant coach.
Coetzee also has ambitions of competing at the postponed Tokyo Games. The challenge to do so is to improve on her best time by at least two seconds. For that to become a reality, she needs to be pushed to her limits more often.
Unfortunately winning the 200m butterfly in South Africa has become a mere formality to Coetzee. She has been the South African senior and junior champion since 2017. As a way to ensure she does not get into a comfort zone, Coetzee resorted to testing herself against boys when training.
Her dedication has not gone unrewarded. Since 2017 to now she has improved her 200m butterfly time from 2:12.52 to 2.10.89 last year. The Olympic qualification standard is 2:08.43.
‘I still need to improve on my kick. It is of cardinal importance when competing in the butterfly. If I can improve on my endurance, it won’t be a bad thing. Actually, to be genuinely competitive means you can never afford to rest on your laurels. There is always something in your technique that can improve,’ said Coetzee, who in 2018 won a silver medal at the Youth Olympic Games.
The ultimate for Coetzee will be to share the Tokyo Games experience with her current coach, Linda de Jager.
‘I am not sure how many South African swimmers had gone to the Games being coached by a woman. I don’t think many. That is why it will be unique. As a coach, Linda taught me that success and discipline go hand in hand. She is also the one that made me believe in my abilities.’
For now, however, it is a case of first things first. Coetzee is in matric, and most of her focus is on ensuring that she passes her exams at the end of the year. She admits that Covid-19 pandemic has complicated things somewhat.
‘Luckily, the teachers at the Afrikaanse Hoër Meisieskool had been proactive. We already started on the matric syllabus last year. Up until the lockdown, we focused on the more challenging aspects of what needed to be learned. What helps is that the teachers are also prepared to help us on Saturdays or with extra classes at any time.’