Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist


In-form swimmer Pieter Coetze sets sights on Olympic gold

Tatjana Smith, Erin Gallagher and Matthew Sates also shone at the national championships.


He admitted he was tired after a long week in the pool, but Pieter Coetze was pleased with his progress ahead of the Paris Olympics after standing out as the top performer at the SA Swimming Championships which came to a close in Gqeberha at the weekend.

Coetze raked in five gold medals at the domestic showpiece, winning the men’s 50m and 100m freestyle finals, as well as the 50m, 100m and 200m backstroke events.

It’s been a lot of fun. Obviously in some races I would have liked to have been a little faster, but you can’t always look at the clock,” said 19-year-old Coetze.

“To come away with wins, I’m happy with that.”

Having secured bronze at the recent World Championships in Doha – the SA team’s only medal – Coetze was targeting top spot at the Olympic Games in July, having already qualified in the 100m and 200m backstroke.

“To win gold in Paris, that’s the dream.,” said the rising teenage star.

Smith back to her best

Meanwhile, a few other swimmers also showcased their form at the six-day SA Championships which concluded on Saturday night.

Tatjana Smith secured all three breaststroke titles on offer, winning the women’s 50m, 100m and 200m finals.

Smith’s 200m performance (2:19.01) was particularly impressive as she set the fastest time in the world this year, just 0.06 outside her own SA record which she achieved when she won gold at the Tokyo Olympics three years ago.

Gallagher and Sates

Erin Gallagher broke her own national records in the 50m butterfly (25.59 seconds) and 100m butterfly (57.32) finals. She also won gold in the 50m freestyle.

And Matthew Sates did well to return home with four gold medals. He won 200m titles in the freestyle and butterfly strokes, as well as the individual medley.

In addition, Sates shared gold with four-time Olympic medallist Chad le Clos in the 100m butterfly event after both swimmers clocked the same time (52.07).

While there were fewer Olympic qualifying times achieved than expected, with the domestic championships also serving as the national trials, swimmers only had to participate in Gqeberha to be considered for selection. They have until 23 June to book their places in the final SA team for the Paris Games.

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