Two of the youngest swimmers on South Africa’s Olympic team to Tokyo, Pieter Coetzé and Matt Sates, continued to fire up the competition on day three of the SA Short Course Championships in Pietermaritzburg.
The 18-year-old Sates picked up another national title in the 400m freestyle, cruising to victory over nine and a half seconds ahead of second-placed Danté Nortjé. The Maritzburg swimmer’s time of 3:41.02 also saw him securing another A qualifying time for the World Short Course Championships in December, while Nortjé’s time of 3:50.63 was a B qualifier.
17-year-old Coetzé then put up a dominant performance in the 50m backstroke, powering to victory in his third world championships qualifying time of 23.42 seconds.
The talented teenagers then went head-to-head in the 100m butterfly and it was Sates who prevailed, taking the title in an A qualifying time of 50.61, well ahead of Coetzé who was second in 52.45 (a B qualifier).
“It was a good race, a little bit slow overall but I swam the 400 freestyle before so I was a little tired,” said Sates afterwards. “But this was one of the races we were swimming against each other and we’ve got the 50 free after this, head-to-head, and that’s going to be a tight one,” the Maritzburg swimmer added of his rivalry with Coetzé, who was gracious in defeat.
“He’s a butterflier so I wasn’t really expecting to beat him in that one, but I really enjoyed it,” he said after the showdown. “My 50 backstroke was a bit close to this race, way closer than his 400 free but we’re very good friends and I like the banter we have when we race. I really enjoy racing him.
“It’s definitely pushed me and makes it more enjoyable. It also makes the sport more competitive.”
Speaking about his earlier victory and qualification in the 50m backstroke, Coetzé added: “I’m very happy with that. I got it [the A qualifying time] by about .3 which is a very good margin on a 50 so I think that time was pretty competitive in the world. I’m happy to get the 100 and 50 double on the backstroke. That was the important part for me at this gala so the rest of it will just be a fun, chilled one for me.”
Meanwhile, fresh from breaking Olympic champion Tatjana Schoenmaker’s national record in the 50m breaststroke on Thursday, Lara van Niekerk was once again in fine form in the 200m event. She claimed her gold in a time of 2:23.65 which saw her once again dipping under the A qualifying mark for the World Championships.
“I didn’t really expect to qualify in the 200 because I’m more a 50 and 100 swimmer but I’m happy that I qualified. It just shows that the fitness is there, the speed is there, the endurance, everything is just right. The 100 is still on Sunday so I am hoping to qualify there as well,” she said.
Second-placed Emily Visagie finished in a B qualifying time of 2:27.86 while 16-year-old Kian Keylock claimed the men’s 200m breaststroke title, finishing dead on the B qualifying time of 2:10.65.
The women’s 100m butterfly was won by Durban’s Rebecca Meder. The 19-year-old finished in a time of 58.62 with Veronique Rossouw in second in 59.87 – both under the world championships B qualifying time.
B qualifiers may be considered if no swimmers achieve the A time in a particular event.
Earlier in the day, Minke Janse van Rensburg broke a junior world record for swimmers with Down syndrome. The 16-year-old star set the new DSISO (Down Syndrome International Swimming Organisation) mark of 24.61 seconds in the 25m breaststroke.
Swimmers who have achieved A qualifying times:
Pieter Coetzé: 50m and 100m backstroke, 100mIM
Rebecca Meder: 100m individual medley
Matt Sates: 200m and 400m freestyle, 100m butterfly
Lara van Niekerk: 50m and 200m breaststroke