Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

SA swimmers on target for Olympic medals

Tatjana Smith and Pieter Coetze are both showing good form in the build-up to the Paris Games.

We might be scratching for medals in other sports. but South Africa’s best swimmers could save the nation’s blushes after reaffirming their status as our top podium contenders for the Olympic Games in Paris later this year.

A little more than three months out from the multi-sport showpiece, it is becoming clear that it is not going to be the country’s best campaign at the quadrennial Games.

In the pool, however, a couple of swimmers have managed to raise hopes, and they proved at the SA Championships in Gqeberha last week that they are well on target to achieving their goals.

Smith looking good

Tatjana Smith, who earned two of the SA team’s three medals at the Tokyo Olympics three years ago, is back to her best.

Aside from winning all three medals in her specialist stroke last week, the breaststroke star rocketed to a stunning victory in the 200m final, narrowly missing her national record.

She won’t have things all her own way, of course, and her world record has been broken since she won in Tokyo, but Smith has proved she can return to the podium in Paris over both the 100m and 200m distances.

Coetze also in form

Similarly, 19-year-old Pieter Coetze is well on target to add a medal or two to the national tally in the French capital.

Coetze won five gold medals in Gqeberha, beating the likes of veteran stars Chad le Clos and Roland Schoeman in the process, and the teenager is gunning for the Olympic podium.

The nation’s only medallist at the World Championships in Doha in February (in the absence of Smith) Coetze has repeatedly proved in recent years that he has the speed, the strength and the big match temperament to take on the world’s best in the 100m and 200m backstroke events.

Pieter Coetze
Backstroke swimmer Pieter Coetze at the World Championships in Doha earlier this year, where he picked up bronze in the 200m backstroke. Picture: Sebastien Bozon/AFP

Other swimmers will also be hoping to stand up and deliver at the Paris Games, including the likes of Kaylene Corbett, Erin Gallagher and Matthew Sates, but we are likely to be relying on Smith and Coetze for medals in the pool.

And considering how much the SA squad might battle in other sports, it’s good to see both swimmers in form. We’re going to need those medals.

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