Schoenmaker and Le Clos headline World Champs trials in Durban

aquatics13 December 2023 14:31
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Tatjana Schoenmaker © Gallo Images

Swimming action is far from over for the year with several of the country’s top athletes converging on Durban for the World Aquatics Championships trials which take place at the Kings Park Pool from 14-18 December.

Among those taking to the starting blocks in Durban is Olympic champion Tatjana Schoenmaker who is down to compete in the 50m, 100m and 200m breaststroke as well as the 200m and 400m freestyle – although the freestyle events are not ones she competes in internationally.

Schoenmaker is back in the pool after getting married last month.

Lining up alongside the former world record holder in the breaststroke events will be her training partner and good friend Kaylene Corbett, while fellow Pretoria swimmer Erin Gallagher, who claimed Commonwealth Games silver in 2022, and Olympic semifinalist Emma Chelius will also be in the mix in the freestyle and butterfly sprints.

The World Aquatics Championships take place in Doha from 11-18 February next year which is an unusual time of year for the global event, particularly with the Olympic Games scheduled for five months later, but this jam-packed calendar has come about because of events being rearranged due to the Covid pandemic.

According to Swimming South Africa’s High Performance Manager, Dean Price, the Durban competition will also act as a selection event for the African Games to be held in Ghana in March.

Price said the priority for the year ahead is the Paris Olympics and getting as many swimmers to qualify for that event as possible.

He added part of that focus is to qualify as many South African relay teams as possible for the Games with the World Championships in Doha providing the only opportunity to do that.

“The big picture is to get as many people as we can to Paris,” said Price, adding that a strategy had been put in place with South African coaches and swimmers based around the world.

“We want to make sure everyone gets the opportunity to prepare properly and perform at their best.

“Hopefully at the end of it all, we’ll have a great team, including relay teams, and one or two swimmers who can get medals.

“We have to make sure we tick all the right boxes and get our swimmers to the right places.”


Meanwhile, Schoenmaker’s coach Rocco Meiring reckoned: “From my perspective, trials in December are at the end of our training block, so December is a window for racing for us. That is why most of my seniors are racing trials.”

Veteran Chad le Clos has confirmed that the World Championships are very much on his radar for 2024.

The 2012 Olympic champion is still determined to return to the international podium next year – in both Doha and Paris.

Le Clos has been entered in the 50m, 100m and 200m butterfly, 50m and 100m freestyle in Durban this week, but having tweaked his back recently, may well cut down on that schedule.

“This is more of a seeing-where-we-are kind of thing. It’s not necessarily the be-all and end-all for me,” said the four-time Olympic medallist.

“The 100 fly at 5pm on Saturday – it would be nice if everyone came out to watch that as it’s my main race. I’m just excited to be back racing in South Africa.

“Worlds is going to be a big one for me. I’m going to be looking to getting to the final and challenging for medals and then the Olympics would be the main step for me,” he added.