Teen swimming sensation Pieter Coetzé wrapped up the SA National Aquatic Championships in Gqeberha with another Olympic qualifying time on Sunday.
The 18-year-old, who has already recorded a qualifying time for Paris 2024 in the 100m backstroke, added the 200m backstroke time, cruising to victory in 1:56.66 – also an A qualifier for the World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan later this year.
Coetzé withdrew from the 50m butterfly final on Sunday to focus on the backstroke event and was duly rewarded with the fifth fastest time in the world this season in the 200m backstroke.
“I was feeling a little bit tired so I thought it might not go well tonight. So I’m actually a little bit shocked with that but very happy,” said Coetzé, who explained he’s still working on perfecting the 200m event.
“I would like to be out in 56 and still bring it back in the same time because the top guys in the world are going out fast. I’ve always been a bit of a backend swimmer so that’s something I have to work on. But this was a bit of a better split than what I usually do which is negative splitting so I can definitely see the improvement.
“I’m just very, very happy. I’ve qualified for Paris now in the 100 and 200 so I’m just over the moon.”
After the medal presentation, Coetzé gifted his gold medal to the thrilled Deputy Minister of Sport, Arts and Culture, Nocawe Mafu, who attended the last night of the championships in Gqeberha.
WINS FOR GALLAGHER AND COETZEE
Also achieving an A-qualification time for the World Championships was Erin Gallagher. The 24-year-old added to her 100m butterfly victory by taking the 50m butterfly in a time of 26.31, ahead of Rebecca Meder (26.87) and 15-year-old Jessica Thompson (26.91).
“I think we always hope to go faster but it always comes down to the race and there was really good competition in that race so I was happy to come away with the win to be honest. There are some fast little 15-year-olds there so the tables have turned now, but I’m happy with the win and I know what I need to work on so I’m very happy overall,” said Gallagher.
There was also an A-qualifier in the 400m freestyle, Duné Coetzee claiming the title in 4:10.49.
“I tried to go fast from the beginning but my first 200 I wasn’t as in control as I wanted to be. I wanted to feel the water, which is something I can fix, but I came back really strong which I’m very happy about,” said Coetzee.
Earlier in the day Emma Chelius swam a time trial with the goal of achieving the A qualifying time she just missed on her way to the 50m freestyle title on Saturday night. And it was mission accomplished as the Olympic semifinalist reached the wall in a speedy 24.78.
“I just felt like I still had more to give and it’s always nice to make the most of a long block of training and then a taper because we don’t get that very often,” said Chelius. “And especially for a 50 I think all those small details have to come together so I really just wanted to have another crack at it. I’m very glad that it paid off and I feel very relieved and happy that it’s done.
“I think I was a lot more aggressive this morning. I knew I had nothing to lose.”
VETERAN SCHOEMAN CLAIMS GOLD
Veteran Roland Schoeman wrapped up his return to the championships with a first national title since 2015. The 42-year-old claimed the win in the 50m butterfly ahead of Clayton Jimmie and Ryan Coetzee, but his time of 23.83 fell short of the A-qualifying time for the World Championships. The top three in the race, did nevertheless achieve B qualifying times.
Meanwhile, Kat Swanepoel continued her sensational form in the events for swimmers with a disability. Despite breaking a finger during her warm-up, the Paralympic star broke the SA and African record in the SM4 150m individual medley, setting a new mark of 2:56.84. That also saw her dipping under the A-qualifying time for the Para Swimming World Championships in Manchester by a massive margin.
Other swimmers who achieved the required A-qualifying times were Christian Sadie in the SM7 200m individual medley (2:36.39), Alani Ferreira in the S13 400m freestyle (5:01.56) and Nathan Hendrik in the men’s S13 400m freestyle (4:28.79).
Swimmers who achieved A qualifying times for the World Swimming Championships in Fukuoka, Japan at the SA National Aquatic Championships:
Aimee Canny: 200m freestyle
Emma Chelius: 50m freestyle
Duné Coetzee: 400, 800m freestyle
Kaylene Corbett: 200m breaststroke
Erin Gallagher: 50, 100m butterfly
Rebecca Meder: 200m individual medley
Tatjana Schoenmaker: 50, 100, 200m breaststroke
Lara van Niekerk: 50, 100m breaststroke
Pieter Coetzé: 50, 100m, 200m backstroke
Michael Houlie: 50m breaststroke
Chad le Clos: 100, 200m butterfly
Matt Sates: 100m butterfly