SA swimmers finish with two fourth places on final night of World Aquatics Champs

Lara van Niekerk and Pieter Coetzé came nail-bitingly close to adding to the South African medal tally at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha on Sunday night. Looking to... Read more
SA swimmers finish with two fourth places on final night of World Aquatics Champs

Lara van Niekerk and Pieter Coetzé came nail-bitingly close to adding to the South African medal tally at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha on Sunday night.

Looking to add to his 200m backstroke bronze, Coetzé finished just off the podium in the 50m event. The 19-year-old clocked a time of 24.59 seconds for fourth place with Australian Isaac Cooper claiming the gold in 24.13 seconds, American Hunter Armstrong taking the silver in 24.33 and Poland’s Ksawery Masiuk the bronze in 24.44.

“I definitely wanted to get on the podium tonight and swim a bit faster and to improve in the final,” admitted the Pretoria teenager afterwards. “It’s not nice not to be able to improve through the rounds, but it’s a 50 so anything can happen… I tried my best and that’s really all I can do.”

Asked what he’s learnt from these championships, Coetzé added: “Mostly on the mental side, I’ve learnt what state I should be in, what expectations I should and shouldn’t have, mostly those kinds of things and then in the pool, there are a few things where I’ve realised my weaknesses that I need to work on.

“This was always just going to be a preparation competition for [the Olympics]. It’s very early in the year. Normally at this time of year, I’m not racing, just training so it’s definitely something new for my body that I wasn’t used to. The whole SA team is not used to that so I think we’re all very excited for the next few months and hopefully we can peak at the right
time.”

Just one race after Coetzé’s on Sunday, Van Niekerk dived in for the final of the 50m breaststroke, where she played catch-up throughout, eventually finishing fourth in a time of 30.47 seconds.

Lithuania’s two-time defending champion Ruta Meilutyte took the gold in 29.40 seconds with China’s 100m breaststroke gold medallist Qianting Tang taking the silver in an Asian record of 29.51 and Italian Benedetta Pilato the bronze in 30.01.

Van Niekerk claimed the 50m breaststroke bronze at the 2022 World Championships in Budapest in 29.90 seconds, but at last year’s event in Fukuoka, also finished just off the podium in fourth place in the race in which Meilutyte set the current world record.

Neither the 50m backstroke nor 50m breaststroke is on the Olympic programme
so Van Niekerk and Coetzé will be focusing on the longer events in the build-up to the Paris Games.

Meanwhile, earlier in the day, Matt Sates finished ninth in his heat of the 400m individual medley in 4 minutes 25.04 seconds, well off his best of 4:11.58, meaning he missed out on a spot in the final after placing 17th overall.

The women’s 4x100m medley relay team of Milla Drakopoulos, Van Niekerk, Erin Gallagher and Emma Chelius finished sixth in their morning heat in 4:03.54 while the men’s team of Coetzé, Matthew Randle, Chad le Clos and Clayton Jimmie finished eighth in 3:37.29, with both teams missing out on progressing to the evening final.

The World Aquatics Championships came to an end on Sunday night with Coetzé’s bronze medal placing South Africa in joint 25th place on the swimming medal table.

Photo: Anton Geyser/SA Sports Images

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