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Eleven world championship qualifiers at nationals

As the ripples subsided after the national short course championships at the King’s Park Aquatics Centre in Durban on Sunday, 11 swimmers had posted qualifying times for December’s FINA World Short-Course Championships in China.

Sunday saw Olympic champion Cameron van der Burgh add the 50-metre breaststroke title to his repertoire in what will be his fifth World Swimming Short-Course Championships.

Van der Burgh won the 50m breaststroke in a time of 26.47 seconds with American-based Brad Tandy posting a qualifying time in his third event at the championships touching second. Tandy stopped the clock in 26.66 with young Cape Town swimmer Michael Houlie claiming third place with 27.27.

Commonwealth Games double gold medalist Tatjana Schoenmaker won her third title at the championships and posted qualifying times in as many events. On Sunday she dipped below the required mark in the 50m breaststroke in both the morning heats and the final in the afternoon. Her winning time of 30.39sec was 0.31sec faster than the required time as she beat Lara van Niekerk (31.12) and Jade Neser (32.28) to the wall.

Ayrton Sweeney added another gold to his collection when he won the 400m Individual Medley gold hitting the wall in a qualifying time of 4min 09.60sec. He finished nearly six seconds ahead of second-placed Ruan Ras (4:15.40) and Damian Mullen, who finished third in 4:20.66. Sweeney had booked his place for the world championships earlier when he posted a qualifying time in the 200m breaststroke.

Splash and dash specialists Tandy and Douglas Erasmus also booked their places for the world championships in the 50m freestyle.

Tandy did it twice on Sunday where he first met the qualifying mark of 21.71 seconds in the morning heats. He then won the final with a time of 21.43 with Zane Waddell finishing second and posting a qualifying time in his third event at the championships. Waddell, who had already posted qualifying marks in the 100m freestyle and 50m backstroke, touched in 21.65 in the 50m freestyle final with Ryan Coetzee finishing third in 21.75.

A Commonwealth Games bronze medallist in Gold Coast, Australia earlier this year, Coetzee qualified for his second event in the preliminary rounds in the 100m butterfly posting a time of 50.97. Coetzee had already penciled his name for the team in the 50m butterfly earlier in the championships.

He raced to victory in the 100m butterfly final with a time of 51.76 with Alard Basson touching second in 53.34 and Zambian Ralph Goveia finishing third in 53.96. Jacques van Wyk was the third South African clocking 54.37.

Coetzee, pictured above as he celebrated his 23rd birthday on Sunday, will now be lining up for his first ever World Short Course Championships in China. He told Team SA’s MARK ETHERIDGE:

‘Yeah, I’m pretty happy with my whole week, it’s been a good week. My fly is in great shape and the freestyle’s finally starting to come back into shape. I got some good relay spots in the 100 and 50m free so basically very pleased with how my swims have been.

‘I must say although I’m struggling a bit with the stroke I’m in good enough shape to be able to hit qualifying times even with a bit of a struggle.’

Coetzee said, he and others had had to adapt to trying conditions in Durban. ‘The water temperature was extremely cold which had a negative effect for a lot of the guys and having to deal with that.’

On his actual races: ’The 50 fly was fun to race… it was very much like Commonwealth Games with Chad next to me in the morning heat. It was just nice being next to him and knowing should be able to qualify solidly. The final with Tandy in the mix was quite nervous stuff.. I didn’t look sideways to see that he was next to me and then I was behind, kind of freaking out a bit and having to hold on but it was a really fun race. The two of us were roomies at the Commies. And there’s a good bond, all in all a great race with Zane [Waddell] in the mix as well.’

On his 100 fly the accounting graduate from the University of Tennessee said: ‘In the morning I didn’t know how much I had left in the body with the cold weather and the last 25min was a bit of a struggle. I watched the video review and it didn’t look too pretty hey! But the good thing is I know what to work on.’

‘So all in all I’m pleased with where I am, it’s been an exciting week. Now I’m heading back for some more training and then I’ll do a few World Cups in Europe to make some bucks but right now I’m happy to have a pretty solid week under my belt.’

Sixteen-year-old Rebecca Meder of Cape Town set a qualifying time in her second event at the championships, adding the 400m IM title to the 200m IM gold medal. She first posted a qualifying mark in the heats before doing it again in the final of the 200m IM clocking a winning time of 4:38.14. Jessica Whelan finished second behind Meder with 4:45.84 with Samantha Randle bagging bronze in 4:46.55.

Erin Gallagher, who has already set qualifying times in the 100m freestyle, 50m butterfly, and the 100m IM, added a fourth when she won the 50m freestyle final. She hit the wall first in a world short-course qualifying time of 24.46 nearly a second ahead of Olivia Nel (25.46) in second place. Newly engaged Emma Chelius rounded off the podium with 25.74.

Nel also won the 50m backstroke. She told Team SA: ’I was really happy with my 50 back, with a time of 28.7. I felt strong before my race and kept my head together to focus on my own race and not the competition around me. I was happy with my race and it feels amazing to win a national gold medal.’

Gallagher had won the 100m butterfly title with a time of 58.54 earlier in the final session where she was followed by Tayla Lovemore (58.57) and the young Duné Coetzee of Tuks (1:02.66) in second and third place respectively.

Reflecting on her championships she told Team SA: ‘All in all I’m overwhelmed with my competition, I never thought that it would’ve turned out the way it did!

‘Having qualified in four of my five events was really humbling and I’m just so grateful to be able to represent my country again. I’m really excited to travel with the team, we’ve all travelled together and we all get along really well.

‘A few of the women’s events were incredibly competitive and it’s just amazing to see the younger talent coming through! There really has been a change in women’s swimming and it makes me so happy. Women’s swimming in SA has had a bad rap in the past but I think times are changing and I can’t wait to see what’s still to come!’

Gallagher, now 19, finished matric two years ago and for now it’s all about swimming, especially after a few health issues in recent months. ‘Right now it’s just about getting back into the pool and making sure my health is my top priority in the build-up to Worlds. Obviously I’m aiming to make the finals for the events I will be swimming so I have to make sure that everything goes perfectly.

The Durban swimmer also gave credit to her support structure. ’My parents are a huge part of my swimming and I owe everything I’ve achieved to them!’

Distance swimmer Abi Meder (sister of Becky) won the women’s 1500m freestyle in a time of 16:33.68 with Kate Beavon taking silver in 16:44.65 ahead of Jordan-Jenna Rolfe in third place with 16:58.20.

Photos: Main picture of the 50m breaststroke podium with Tandy, Van der Burgh and Houlie and birthday-boy Coetzee, supplied and by Koos Coetzee

Final qualifying times from the SA championships 

Chad le Clos – 100m freestyle (46.45), 50m butterfly (22.57)
Cameron van der Burgh – 100m breaststroke (57.63), 50m breaststroke (26.47)
Zane Waddell – 100m freestyle (47.54), 50m backstroke (23.55), 50m freestyle (21.65)
Ryan Coetzee – 50m butterfly – (22.99), 100m butterfly (50.97)
Brad Tandy – 50m butterfly – (23.12), 50m freestyle (), 50m breaststroke (26.66)
Ayrton Sweeney – 200m breaststroke (2:06.81), 400m IM (4:09.60)
Douglas Erasmus – 50m freestyle (21.63)

Tatjana Schoenmaker – 200m breaststroke – 2:18.93, 100m breaststroke (1:05.12), 50m breaststroke (30.39)
Emily Visagie – 200m breaststroke (2:23.03)
Erin Gallagher – 100m freestyle (53.34), 50m butterfly (26.07), 100m IM (1:01.00), 50m freestyle (24.46)
Rebecca Meder – 200m IM (2:12.35), 400m IM (4:38.14)

The staging of this event has been made possible through the support provided by Swimming SA partners, Sport and Recreation South Africa, SASCOC, Arena, Rand Water and the National Lotteries Commission.