Gallagher kicks off SA champs in Gqeberha with national record

aquatics08 April 2024 19:24
By:Karien Jonckheere
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Erin Gallagher © Anton Geyser

Both Erin Gallagher and Tatjana Smith made strong opening statements on the first day of action at the SA National Swimming Championships in Gqeberha on Monday.

Gallagher claimed the 50m butterfly title in a new SA record of 25.59 seconds to get her week off to the best possible start, with the 50 and 100m freestyle and 100m butterfly still to come.

“This afternoon I had a really good energy and I could feel that if I was going to swim a PB, now was the time to do it,” she said afterwards.

“It’s always weird when you can feel you’re on track for a good swim and it’s all about seizing the moment.”

As for what this speedy form could mean for her other events, Gallagher added: “Obviously it’s always nice to think that because you do a PB in one event, it means all the others are going to be good. But it’s a completely different race, completely different strategy. The 50s are all about going as fast as possible where the 100s are more of a controlled speed event so you never really know what to expect, but I’m looking forward to the rest of the meet for sure.”


Also in action on Monday night was two-time Olympic medallist Tatjana Schoenmaker, now swimming under her married name, Smith.

The 200m breaststroke Olympic champion swam the shorter 50m event, beating SA record holder Lara van Niekerk to the title in a time of 30.09 seconds to equal the personal best time she achieved in the morning heats.

Van Niekerk, who claimed a World Championship bronze in the event in 2022, was second in 30.16 – some way off her best of 29.72.

“I think it’s always nice to have a 50… it just breaks that ice, no main events, no Olympic qualifying events so I think that just helps to get ready for the rest of the gala,” said Smith.

“It’s very surprising because in training my speed was the thing that was lacking the most. I think that’s just how the training is – I train for 200 so the speed is just the add-on. That’s why I like doing speed events, just to see where I am… so it’s nice to see that it is fast and hopefully the rest of the gala looks good as well.”

Later in the evening, Pieter Coetzé claimed victory in the 50m backstroke, but was hoping for a quicker time than the 24.54 he swam (also the same as his morning heat) for the gold.

“I’m not over the moon with the time. It would have been very nice to go faster than that but it’s a 50 so I’m not too worried about it. I’m just glad I could get a warm-up swim on day 1, going into the rest of the meet.

“I felt really good in the race. I can’t really put my finger on anything that felt bad but I always go and look at the video and see what I can work on so I think I’m pretty happy with that for where we’re at right now,” added the 19-year-old.

Others to claim SA titles on the night were Michael Houlie in the 50m breaststroke (27.15 seconds), Jarden Eaton in the 50m butterfly (24.18), Tayla Jonker in the 50m backstroke (28.50), Duné Coetzee in the 800m freestyle (8:40.13) and Matthew Caldwell in the 1 500m freestyle (15:49.25) after the race was won by visiting Indian swimmer Kushagra Rawat in a time of 15:41.61.

Swimming action continues at the Newton Park Swimming Pool in Gqeberha on Tuesday morning.