Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist


OPINION: SA swimmers can make a splash at Paris Olympics

Teenagers are leading the way as South African swimmers continue their long-term build-up to the Paris Olympics.


While the country's other most popular Olympic sports are generally struggling to show medal potential ahead of the next edition of the Games, South Africa is likely to be able to rely on a strong swimming squad at the 2024 showpiece in Paris. In Tokyo last year, two of the nation's three medals were earned by one athlete in the pool (breaststroke specialist Tatjana Schoenmaker), and swimmers have secured eight of SA's 19 medals at the quadrennial Games since London 2012 - more than any other code. Fortunately, with the likes of athletics, rowing and triathlon showing somewhat of a…

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While the country’s other most popular Olympic sports are generally struggling to show medal potential ahead of the next edition of the Games, South Africa is likely to be able to rely on a strong swimming squad at the 2024 showpiece in Paris.

In Tokyo last year, two of the nation’s three medals were earned by one athlete in the pool (breaststroke specialist Tatjana Schoenmaker), and swimmers have secured eight of SA’s 19 medals at the quadrennial Games since London 2012 – more than any other code.

Fortunately, with the likes of athletics, rowing and triathlon showing somewhat of a dip, less than two years out from the Paris spectacle it seems we will again be able to look to the pool for a few medals.

ALSO READ: Le Clos not falling short of expectations

Those who watch the sport closest will remind you that the 25-metre format is not as prestigious or competitive as the long-course (50m) format, but South Africa’s performances at the World Short-Course Championships in Melbourne last week still gave plenty of reasons to raise optimism ahead of the Paris Games.

Two of the SA team’s three medallists – Matthew Sates and Lara van Niekerk – are still teenagers. And they are both phenomenal talents.

A former World Cup series champion, 19-year-old NCAA star Sates was spectacular in Melbourne, earning gold and silver in medley races, while Van Niekerk (also 19) added 50m breaststroke silver to the bronze she secured at the long-course World Championships in Budapest earlier this year.

Matthew Sates
Matthew Sates after winning the 200m individual medley title at the World Short-Course Championships. Picture: Getty Images

And 30-year-old Chad le Clos showed a remarkable return to form by raising his career tally to 12 short-course world titles with two butterfly gold medals.

Add to this the likes of 18-year-old backstroke prospect Pieter Coetze – the world junior 200m backstroke champion – and Schoenmaker – who is laying low but could still be a force in Paris – and there’s a bag full of potential medallists.

Making progress

They will, however, have to step it up a gear in order to repeat their results on the biggest stage of all, and furthering their progress next season will be key.

There are other sports which could also lift the nation’s medal tally at the 2024 showpiece, and it’s not all doom and gloom, but we are a fry cry from the superb squad that earned 10 medals at the 2016 Rio Games.

If they are able to build on their form in the 50-metre pool, however, swimmers won’t just be leading the way in terms of SA medals at the next Olympics. They have the talent and experience to make an international impact with a massive splash.

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Olympic Games swimming

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