Gallagher, Smith and Canny lead the way with Olympic qualifiers at SA champs

Erin Gallagher powered to her second national record of the week on the penultimate night of action at the SA Swimming Championships in Gqeberha on Friday. The Pretoria swimmer... Read more
Gallagher, Smith and Canny lead the way with Olympic qualifiers at SA champs

Erin Gallagher powered to her second national record of the week on the penultimate night of action at the SA Swimming Championships in Gqeberha on Friday.

The Pretoria swimmer stormed to the national title in the 100m butterfly in a time of 57.32 seconds, also dipping under the Olympic qualifying time of 57.92. That saw her bettering the African record she set at the World Championships in Doha earlier this year.

The 25-year-old admitted afterwards that her body had not felt good in the morning, so she had held back in the heats. “But I went home, had a two-hour nap, had some McDonald’s, and I was ready to go this evening,” she said.

“When I finished the race, I thought I’d be more tired, but now I feel like I need to go again, so that’s a good sign.

“I think if this race was earlier in the gala, I could have maybe done a little bit more, but this is where I’m at now, and there are lessons to be learnt: better to swim slower now and faster in Paris.”

Also planning ahead to Paris is Tatjana Smith, who achieved the Olympic qualifying time in the heats and final of the 100m breaststroke. She swam 1:05.48 to take the gold, with Commonwealth Games champion Lara van Niekerk finishing second in 1:07.16.

“When I did the 200m [breaststroke], I was like, okay, the main one is done, so I was really struggling to get my mindset back into competing, and I think also physically, it took a toll. I could feel this one burnt a lot more than it did in the 200, so you have those pros and cons,” said a relieved Smith who explained she’s still fully recovering from a groin strain.

Later in the evening, Aimee Canny booked her ticket to Paris by achieving the required qualifying time in the opening leg of the 4x200m freestyle relay as part of the Western Cape team.

The 20-year-old shook off the disappointment of missing out on qualification in the 200m freestyle final on Wednesday by .13 of a second and bounced back in impressive fashion with a time of 1:56.80 to dip well under the required 1:57.26.

“I don’t think I have the words right now to describe it. I’m super-happy with that swim. It was just a great swim… It’s pretty surreal right now. It’s something I’ve been practising and training for this moment, so it’s so weird that it’s come true.”

Speaking about coming back from just missing out on Wednesday, Canny added: “I had a good day to just process everything, and then I was like, I’m ready, I want to go again. I knew .1 [of a second] is nothing, especially in a 200. I knew I was there.”

Meanwhile, Chad le Clos enjoyed a 32nd birthday to remember by finishing in a dead heat with young rival Matt Sates in the 100m butterfly. Sates turned first, but the duo were neck and neck by the final meters, both finishing in a time of 52.07 seconds.

“All credit to Matt,” said Le Clos afterwards. “It was a nice one for the fans and a good way to end my birthday but there’s a lot of work to do.

We’re a bit far off the pace at the moment but looking forward to the Olympics,” added the four-time Olympic medallist who, together with Sates, has already achieved the qualifying time in the event.

The Para swimmers also continued to impress on Friday, with both Christian Sadie and Nathan Hendricks adding to their Paralympic qualifying times.

Sadie achieved his in the morning heats of the SM7 200m individual medley in a time of 2:38.45 while Hendricks swam two qualifying times in the SM13 200m individual medley – once in the heats (2:18.19) and then taking over a second off that time in the final (2:17.15).

Swimming action continues at the Newton Park Swimming Pool on Saturday.

Swimmers who have achieved Olympic qualifying times at the SA Championships 2024:

Aimee Canny (200m freestyle)

Pieter Coetzé (100m backstroke, 200m backstroke)

Kaylene Corbett (200m breaststroke)

Erin Gallagher (100m butterfly)

Tatjana Smith (100m breaststroke, 200m breaststroke)

Photo: SA Sports Images/Anton Geyser

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