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Gallagher shines with trio of gold medals at SA Grand Prix

It was another display of South Africa’s rising talent as the last leg of the South African Swimming Grand Prix got underway at the Stellenbosch University Swimming Pool on Saturday.
Golden girl Erin Gallagher, off to the Commonwealth Games in Australia later this year, delivered three breathtaking performances in the 100-metre butterfly, 50m backstroke and 50m freestyle, winning the top spots in 59.90, 30.03 and 25.88 seconds, respectively.

Alice van der Merwe and Connie Pietersen completed the butterfly medal podium in 1:05.01 and 1:05.34, while Olivia Nel scooped the silver in the backstroke in 30.13 and the bronze in the freestyle race in 26.49.

Mariella Venter, who finished third in the 50m backstroke in 30.44, grabbed the gold medal in the 200m backstroke in 2:17.62, ahead of Kiara Noades in 2:22.68 and Hannah Pearse in 2:24.86. Venter was also one of Team South Africa’s biggest medal-winners at last year’s Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas.

Ayrton Sweeney made his way to the top of the medal podium on two occasions, clocking a fast 2:14.78 in the 200m breaststroke and a golden 4:19.96 in the 400m individual medley.

Luan Grobbelaar, at 15 one of the two youngest members of Team SA to travel to the Commonwealth Games in Australia in April, claimed the silver in the individual medley event with a time of 4:33.47 and the bronze in the breaststroke in 2:20.37.

Rio Olympian Douglas Erasmus was victorious in the 100m freestyle and 50m butterfly in 51.48 and 24.28, respectively, while Martin Binedell finished second in the freestyle in 52.38, with the bronze medal being shared between Ian Venter and Naude Opperman in 53.03.

Binedell also won the bronze in the 100m backstroke later in the session behind Jacques van Wyk in 57.87 and Jack Oliver in 58.23.

Rebecca Meder sped past the competition to win the 200m individual medley in 2:28.64, over 3secs ahead of Emily Visagie in 2:21.66 and Kate Beavon in 2:24.45, while Beavon also took home the gold in the 200m freestyle in 2:06.13, with the silver going to Kristin Bellingan in 2:07.33 and the bronze to Inge Weidemann in 2:08.12.

Bellingan and Meder also claimed the gold and silver in the 800m freestyle in 9:03.18 and 9:06.01, respectively, while Visagie walked away with the bronze in the 100m backstroke in 1:12.14, behind Kaylene Corbett in 1:10.03 and Hamin Abrahams in 1:11.58.

In the quick 50m breaststroke race, Michael Houlie came out on top in 28.11, followed by Alaric Basson (he celebrated his birthday eariier in the week, in 28.48 and Reece Whitaker in 30.49.

The 400m freestyle title went to Henre Louw in 4:13.18, followed by Simon Mason in 4:13.78 and Stephano Roodt in 4:14.62, while the gold in the 200m butterfly went to Ethan du Preez in 2:03.23 ahead of Alard Basson in 2:03.99 and Gavin Smith in 2:08.68.

The SA Swimming Grand Prix concludes on Sunday with the finals session beginning at 10am.