Coetzé clocks another Olympic qualifier en route to fourth gold at SA champs

aquatics11 April 2024 22:01| © Swimming SA
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Pieter Coetzé © SA Sports Images/Anton Geyser

Pieter Coetzé added a fourth gold medal to his growing haul at the SA National Swimming Championships in Gqeberha on Thursday while also registering two Olympic qualifying times in the 100m backstroke.

The 19-year-old swam 53.05 seconds in the morning heats to dip under the required 53.74 seconds to reach the Olympic Games and went even quicker in the evening final, finishing in 52.89 seconds to take the title.

While he was pleased with the win, the Pretoria swimmer was hoping his closest rival, silver medallist Ruard van Renen would also dip under the Olympic qualifying time. But the US-based 20-year-old touched in 54.50 seconds for his second place, so missing out.

“It feels great,” said Coetzé. “I actually also really wanted Ruard to get the time. It would be really nice to have two of us but I think he’ll get it eventually so I’m really rooting for him.”

Coetzé in competing in two more individual events at these championships.

“I have the 50 free and 200IM. I’m doing the heat [for the IM]. I’m still deciding whether I’ll do the final because it’s been years since I’ve done it and I know it’s a race that really hurts and my breaststroke sucks so I’m not too excited for that one but I will be doing it,” he explained.


Fellow teenager Milla Drakopoulos claimed the women’s 100m backstroke title in a time of 1:01.70. While it was short of the Olympic qualifying mark, the 17-year-old is still determined to book her ticket to Paris later this year and will target the time again in the medley relay.

“The time wasn’t too good but I’m just grateful to God. It’s been a tough week. I’ve been racing a lot. I’ve still got the relay on Saturday which will help, I’ve got a day off tomorrow so I can rest and hopefully get that time on Saturday,” said the Pietermaritzburg swimmer.

“My PB is only 1.2 seconds off and I’ve been training like I’ve never been training before so the time will come.”

Duné Coetzee swam a new PB of 4:09.43 to claim the women’s 400m freestyle gold while Matthew Caldwell also recorded a best time to take the men’s title in 3:54.27.

19-year-old Dakota Tucker swam two personal bests on her way to the national title in the women’s 200m individual medley. The US-based teen finished her morning heat in 4:47.95 and then bettered that in the evening with a 4:47.09.

Kian Keylock took the men’s 400m IM title in 4:25.06.


Meanwhile, there were several more qualifying swims in the Paralympic events with Christian Sadie, Alani Ferreira, Nathan Hendricks and Danika Vynck all impressing on Thursday.

Ferreira achieved her times in the SB12 100m breaststroke heats and then again in the final, finishing in 1:22.92.

“I’m really happy. I had a knee op in the beginning of December so I was really not sure where I was going to be so I’m just feeling so relieved because now I know I’m on track,” she said afterwards.

“It was definitely painful but the good type of pain that you know you’re working hard and luckily I have a rest day tomorrow and then 100 free on the last day so I’m looking forward to it.”

Danika Vynck swam her qualifier in the final of the SB13 100m breaststroke, finishing in 1:22.41.

Christian Sadie achieved his qualifying times in the heats of the S7 50m butterfly and then again in the final with a time of 30.30 seconds while 18-year-old Nathan Hendricks swam 4:21.02 to qualify in the S13 400m freestyle.

Swimming action continues at the Newton Park Swimming Pool on Friday.

Swimmers who have achieved Olympic qualifying times at the SA Championships 2024:

Pieter Coetzé (100m backstroke, 200m backstroke)

Kaylene Corbett (200m breaststroke)

Tatjana Smith (200m breaststroke)