Sates bags bronze as Le Clos and Van Niekerk book finals spots

SA teenager Matt Sates collected his second medal of the World Short Course Championships in Melbourne on Saturday, claiming bronze in the 400m individual medley. Swimming in the lane... Read more
Sates bags bronze as Le Clos and Van Niekerk book finals spots

SA teenager Matt Sates collected his second medal of the World Short Course Championships in Melbourne on Saturday, claiming bronze in the 400m individual medley.

Swimming in the lane next to Japanese star Daiya Seto – who was gunning for an incredible sixth straight victory in the event at these championships – Sates went out hard as expected in the butterfly leg before dropping back in the backstroke and breaststroke and then holding on in the freestyle for third.

Seto powered to victory in 3:55.75 with American Carson Foster second in 3:57.63 and Sates taking the bronze in a new national record time of 3:59.21. The previous record was set by Chad le Clos nine years ago.

“It was Chad’s record and I got it by 0.02 so it was pretty cool,” said Sates afterwards. “I’m happy with the swim. [Breaking the four-minute mark] was definitely a milestone and a good way to finish off the 400IM races for the year.”

Fellow teenager Lara van Niekerk was also in record-breaking form on Saturday. The 19-year-old had shattered her own African record in the morning heats of the 50m breaststroke, qualifying third fastest for the semifinal in a speedy 29.45.

Despite a slow start, she then went even quicker in the evening semifinal, finishing third in another new continental mark of 29.27 – in a race highlighted by a world record from Ruta Meilutyte. The Lithuanian had been flirting with Alia Atkinson’s short course world record during the World Cup series and finally surpassed the mark on Saturday, storming to victory in 28.37.

“It was quite cool swimming in a world record race, I don’t think a lot of people can say that,” said Van Niekerk afterwards.

Speaking about her own race, the Pretoria swimmer added: “There were a few errors, my start wasn’t the greatest and I was a bit short on the turn so I think if I can fix those things tomorrow night, it will be a very good race.

“I’m looking forward to the 50 [final] – it’s always my most fun race and I’m just happy that I can hopefully end off the gala on a very high note.”

Meanwhile, after his gold medal in the 200m butterfly on Thursday, the resurgent Le Clos ensured he progressed to the final of the 100m event as the fastest qualifier.

The 30-year-old won his semifinal in 48.98 – the only swimmer to dip under the 49-second mark.

Italian Matteo Rivolta and winner of the second semifinal Switzerland’s Noe Ponti were joint second fastest through to Sunday’s final in 49.07.

“I was very happy with the 100 fly – 48.9. I think tomorrow is going to be a great race between me and the defending champ Rivolta and Ponti… Hopefully it’ll be a gold tomorrow but it will be a tight one,” said Le Clos, adding a few words for his young teammate.

“A big shoutout to Matthew [Sates] for breaking my record tonight in the 400IM. I’m very, very proud of him, he’s a superstar.”

Earlier in the day, 18-year-old Dakota Tucker finished 14th overall in the women’s 400m individual medley heats in 4:40.01 while Rebecca Meder was 19th in the 100m butterfly in 58.04 and Simon Haddon was 39th in the men’s 50m breaststroke in 27.67.

The SA women’s 4x50m medley relay team of Milla Drakopoulos, Emily Visagie, Caitlin de Lange and Hannah Pearse were 13th overall in 1:53.76, while the men’s team of Pieter Coetzé, Kian Keylonck, Clayton Jimmie and Haddon finished 14th overall in 1:37.14.

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