Wesley Botton

By Wesley Botton

Chief sports journalist


Tatjana Smith in tears after narrowly missing SA record

Pieter Coetze also displayed superb form in the men's 200m backstroke final.


An emotional Tatjana Smith was delighted with her performance on Wednesday night after touching the wall inches outside her national 200m breaststroke record on day three of the SA Swimming Championships in Gqeberha.

Smith, who was previously known as Tatjana Schoenmaker before her recent marriage, won the four-length final in 2:19.01.

She was just 0.06 outside her SA record of 2:18.95 which she set when she won gold at the Olympic Games in Tokyo three years ago.

While Kaylene Corbett was nearly five seconds off the pace, clocking 2:23.71, both swimmers achieved the qualifying standard for the Olympics in Paris in July.

They became the first participants at the national championships to dip under the times required to secure their places in the SA team for the Paris showpiece.

“I was so close to my (former) world record so I can’t be upset. For me to be back to the times I used to swim, I don’t even know what to say,” said Smith, who broke into tears during her post-race interview.

“I never thought I would actually get back to the times, and I know it’s never about the times, but I’ve always said a happy swimmer is a fast swimmer. I’m much happier and I think my results are showing it.”

Coetze shines in backstroke final

Pieter Coetze also displayed superb form in the men’s 200m backstroke final, rocketing to victory in 1:55.85 and finishing more than six seconds ahead of his nearest competitor.

While he had already dipped under the Olympic qualifying standard of 1:57.50, Coetze showcased his form by missing the 15-year-old SA record held by George du Rand (1:55.75) by just 0.10.

“I’m really happy with that time for now. I didn’t really know what to expect but I’m very happy,” said Coetze, who was the national team’s only medallist at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha in February.

“We’ve been working towards the Olympics and this time is a good sign looking ahead towards that.”

Smith and Coetze will return to the pool later in the week for the 100m races in their specialist strokes, with the six-day SA Swimming Championships coming to a close on Saturday.

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swimming Tatjana Schoenmaker