By Mark Etheridge
Swimmers dominated Team South Africa’s medal count at the recent AUSC Region 5 Games in Luanda, Angola, winning almost half of the team’s 125 medals.
The final Games-winning tally was made up of 65 gold, 35 silver and 25 medals.
After winning 60 medals the swimming code was in turn dominated by two swimmers who share a surname.
Between them, Nathania and Kyle van Niekerk won 23 of those medals. Pretoria’s Nathania won 13 and Johannesburg’s Kyle won 10.
The two champions took time out to share their Games success.
Says Nathania, currently in hostel at the High Performance Centre, where she’ll be in matric at TuksSport High School next year, and have the honour of being head girl: ‘Going into the Games I didn’t have very high expectations as I was swimming quite a few events.
‘My only goal was to bag as many medals for my country as possible. Conditions were tough, and the biggest challenge was staying in a good mental space in order to perform at my best
‘But I definitely exceeded my own expectations by winning 13 medals, of which nine were gold and four silver. I also had a few personal best times which were a great surprise to me.’
And there were a few special moments for Van Niekerk, originally from Potgietersrus. ‘I was particularly happy with my results in the freestyle events (50m, 100m, 200m) as I swam three personal best times and didn’t expect to medal in those events.’
Coached by Linda de Jager since May this year, she took a lot out of the Under-20 Games
‘I think these Games are very good for athletes to teach them how to perform in harsh conditions and how to cope with it as the big international meets might not always be inside your comfort zone’
Looking ahead and the car-mad teenager is really revved up: ‘Next year is a big year as the Commonwealth trials for 2018 will be held in December. I’m going to spend most of my time training and preparing myself for the trials so I can be sure to secure a spot on the team!’
Moving on to Kyle and although his medal tally was three short of his namesake, his achievement was unique in that all 10 of his medals were gold
The 18-year-old matriculated from St Stithians Boys’ College this year and has swum with the Waterborn club in Randburg for the last 10 years where ex-national swimmer Peter Williams oversees him,
‘Before the games I was a little scared, not because I was nervous but more due to the fact that I thought I was under prepared.
‘I missed a lot of training leading into the games, to focus on my final matric exams. So I didn’t expect anything close to what I achieved, especially on the medal count side. I will usually will only swim four or five races at a meet like this. but I enjoyed the challenge to swim more races.’
Like Nathania the freestyle gave him the most reward. ‘The 100 free, being my main race ,always gives me the most satisfaction. Having said that, it also gives me the most pain, physically!’
And the new year is also a big year for him
‘The whole of next year I intend to get even fitter and faster, especially for senior nationals in April.
‘And then in August next year I’ll be leaving this beautiful country to live out my Olympic dream in America, while attending the University of Minnesota in the city of Minneapolis.’
NATHANIA’S MEDAL HAUL
50m freestyle – silver
100m freestyle – gold
200m freestyle – silver
50m backstroke – silver
100m backstroke – gold
200m backstroke – gold
50m butterfly – silver
100m butterfly – gold
4x100m freestyle relay – gold
4x100m mixed medley relay – gold
4×50 freestyle relay – gold
4×100 mixed freestyle relay – gold
4×100 women’s medley relay – gold
KYLE’S GOLDEN CLUTCH
4x100m freestyle relay
4x100m mixed freestyle relay
4x100m mixed medley relay
4x100m men’s medley relay
4x50m freestyle relay