Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist

SA swimmers settle for one bronze in world champs campaign

Pieter Coetze and Lara van Niekerk both finished fourth in South Africa's last two races in the Qatari capital.

While two of the country’s best swimmers turned out in finals on Sunday night, Lara van Niekerk and Pieter Coetze both fell short of podium places as South Africa’s campaign came to a close at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha.

Coetze took fourth position in the men’s 50m backstroke final in 24.59, just 0.15 shy of a medal, with Australian swimmer Isaac Cooper winning gold in 24.13.

Van Niekerk was also fourth in the women’s 50m breaststroke final in 30.47 seconds, missing out on a medal by nearly half a second. She was well off the pace of Lithuanian world record holder Ruta Meilutyte who took top spot on the podium in 29.40.

Earlier on Sunday, in the morning heats, Matthew Sates finished 17th in the men’s 400m medley. He touched the wall in 4:25.04, missing out on a place in the final.

The national women’s 4x100m medley relay team – Milla Drakopoulos, Van Niekerk, Erin Gallagher and Emma Chelius – took 10th place overall in 4:03.54, while the men’s 4x100m medley relay quartet – Coetze, Matthew Randle, Chad le Clos and Clayton Jimmie – settled for 16th position in 3:37.29. Neither relay team were able to book a spot in the finals.

Coetze shines

Coetze was the best of the South African contingent at the eight-day World Championships gala in the Qatari capital, grabbing the bronze medal in the 200m backstroke in 1:55.19. The 19-year-old rising star also ended fifth in the 100m backstroke final in 53.51.

While Coetze was the SA squad’s only medallist at the showpiece, however, a few swimmers fell just short of the podium after putting up fights in their respective events.

Gallagher missed out on the bronze medal by just two hundredths of a second in the women’s 50m butterfly, finishing fourth in the final in 25.69. She also took seventh place in the 100m butterfly in 57.83, after setting an African record of 57.59 in the heats.

Experienced campaigner Le Clos, a four-time former World Championships gold medallist, did well to grab fifth spot in the men’s 100m butterfly in 51.48 at the age of 31.

Sates was the only other SA swimmer to reach a final, ending eighth in the 200m butterfly in 1:57.23.

Though she was eliminated in the semifinals, 19-year-old Tayla Jonker broke the South African record in the women’s 50m backstroke, clocking 28.37 in the first-round heats.

With one bronze, South Africa finished in a tie for 33rd place in the medals table at the global showpiece.

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