Along with fellow swimmer Luan Grobbelaar, Duné Coetzee (15), is the youngest member of the South African Commonwealth Games team.
In December the Tuks swimmer qualified in the 200-metre butterfly (2min 12.52sec), 200 freestyle (2:02.68) and 400 freestyle (4:22.58).
What Coetzee might lack in years she makes up with tenacity. ‘Getting the opportunity to compete at the Commonwealth Games is certainly going to be my toughest swimming challenge ever,’ she says.
‘But I’m looking forward to it. I hope I can learn enough to stand me in good stead for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. The nice thing is that Australia is in nearly the same time zone as Japan so I will get an idea of how my body will adapt to the change,’ said the current South African senior 200m butterfly champion.
‘I’m a big fan of Rafael Nadal [tennis ace]. The one thing that stood out when I read his biography is his utter determination. He states when he competes he plays each shot as if it is going to be his last. It’s something I admire. It’s not always easy, but when I train or compete, my goal is also to give 100%. There can never be any resting on one’s laurels.
‘It’s going to be a tall order, but I think on a good day if I do everything right I might just be able to qualify for a final. My goal will be at least to swim one personal best at the Games. I owe it to myself to do so.’
Coetzee said that the 200m butterfly is her favourite stroke and her best time of 2:12.52 ranks her in the top 20 in the Commonwealth Countries.
The Tuks swimmer ascribed her success to putting in the long hard hours. ‘From August my coach, Linda de Jager, and I worked on improving my times in the 200m events. I’m excited about the times I have swum in December as it proves that if you are prepared to put in the hard work, you will reap the rewards.’
Tatjana Schoenmaker (silver medalist in the 200m-breaststroke at last year’s World Student Game) and Nathania van Niekerk who missed qualifying for the Olympic Games in Rio in the 200m-backstroke by 0.60sec are the other two female Tuks swimmers in the Commonwealth Games team.
According to Van Niekerk, she currently ranks as one of the 20 best 200m-backstroke swimmers in the Commonwealth countries. However, she is confident that between now and April she’ll be able to improve on the time she swam in Durban.
‘If I can get close to my best time of 2:11.33 there’s a real chance for me to qualify for the final at the Commonwealth Games.’
Picture of Coetzee courtesy of Reg Caldecott