Sports Reporter
3 minute read
7 Apr 2022
8:11 am

Van Niekerk breaks record, beats Schoenmaker to SA title

Sports Reporter

Chad le Clos won the 50m butterfly but missed out on qualifying for this year's World Championships.

Lara van Niekerk boke her national 50m breaststroke record to win gold at the SA Swimming Championships. Picture: Gallo Images

Up and coming breaststroker Lara van Niekerk provided the highlight on day one of the SA National Swimming Championships, beating Tatjana Schoenmaker to the national sprint title in Gqeberha on Wednesday.

The 18-year-old from Pretoria smashed her own national and continental record in the heats of the 50m breaststroke, bettering her previous best of 29.88 with a blistering 29.72 seconds.

Van Niekerk became the first South African woman to swim under the 30-second mark in the long course event at the end of last year, and her world-leading time on Wednesday saw her dipping well under the qualifying marks for this year’s World Championships and Commonwealth Games.

Van Niekerk was slightly slower in the evening final but said an error at the start had cost her. She nevertheless still managed to beat 200m breaststroke Olympic gold medallist and world record holder Schoenmaker to the title, finishing in 30.60 ahead of Schoenmaker’s 30.87 (also a qualifying time).

“I expected to PB (personal best) because my times have been really good in training,” Van Niekerk of her record-breaking swim.

“Unfortunately tonight I wanted to go faster but I messed up my start a bit. I didn’t catch my hand at the start so I literally went in in ‘Superman’ position and I came up really far behind. But it happens – rather here than the international stage – so I’m happy with the morning swim.”

Also achieving a qualifying time in the morning heats was another teenager, Pieter Coetzé, who won his 100m backstroke heat in 53.96. His time in the evening final was slower (54.08), but that made little difference.

“I got the qualifying time this morning so the pressure was off,” said the 17-year-old Olympian, who also finished second in the 50m butterfly.

“The 50 fly was quite close to the 100 back so I felt it at the end there. I didn’t have time to do a swim down after the fly, so I definitely felt the burn.

“I felt comfortable going out but the backend is important, so I think that was lacking a bit, but the pressure was off so I was happy with that.”

The other qualifying time of the day came from Aimee Canny, who claimed the 200m freestyle in 1:58.34.

“I was hoping to do it. We’ve been doing a lot of pace in training so I’m very happy with that,” she said afterwards.

“I kind of died at the end but I think I went out a bit hard so I’m happy. I surprisingly held on for longer than I thought I would.

“I did a similar time at the Olympics so I’m glad to know I’m back where I was and the training has paid off.”

Meanwhile, just missing out on the qualifying time in the 50m butterfly was 2012 Olympic 200m butterfly champion Chad le Clos who took the title in 23.93 seconds.

While he has other events to focus on, the 29-year-old veteran was happy to have at least gotten the better of his young teenage rivals, Coetzé (24.14) and Matt States (24.28), who finished second and third respectively.

“I’m happy. I thought I’d be a bit faster but it’s ok. They’re coming for me these boys, closer and closer every year,” Le Clos said.

Other winners on the night were Rebecca Meder in the 400m individual medley (4:49.04), Sates in the 400m freestyle (3:49.37), Matthew Randle in the 200m breaststroke (2:14.47) and Erin Gallagher in the 100m butterfly (59.78).

Swimming at the Newton Park Swimming Pool continues on Thursday and comes to an end on Monday, 11 April.