Young Pietermaritzburg swimming star Matthew Sates has roughly a month to get his act together for the Commonwealth Games after struggling to meet expectations at the World Aquatics Championships.
The down-to-earth 18-year-old entered the big Fina event with a mixture of confidence and influenza in Hungary last week, and his four races since then have not exactly gone to plan.
He posted his worst performance in his closing event on Thursday when he failed to get past the heats of the men’s 100m butterfly in the talent-laden pool in Budapest.
The former St Charles College pupil covered the distance in 54,17 seconds for 41st place overall, falling a hefty 3,49 seconds adrift of the top time posted by Kristof Milak of Hungary.
The previous night saw Sates reach a World Championship final for the first time, but he finished last in the 200m medley in one minute and 58,27 seconds, which was won by Leon Marchand of France in 1:55,22.
Before that, Sates could not get past the semi-finals of the 200m freestyle and 400m medley.
This was despite his having gone to Budapest with strong results behind him in his past two international missions in the Mare Nostrum Series and World Cup.
With illness one of the factors, Sates’ struggles in Hungary seem to highlight the overall mediocre showing of Team SA, with no podium places booked. The event incorporates several aquatics disciplines.
Another disappointment on Thursday saw fellow KwaZulu-Natal swimmer Jimmie Clayton (pictured) finish 43rd in the heats of the men’s 50m freestyle with a time of 22,74 seconds. The quickest qualifier was Brazil’s Bruno Fratus in 21,71 seconds.
On Friday, Emma Chelius from KZN will tackle the 50m women’s freestyle heats, while Lara van Niekerk from Gauteng goes into the women’s 50m breaststroke heats.
However, Sates and company seem to have enough time to prepare physically and mentally for the Commonwealth Games, as it starts on July 28 in Birmingham, England.
Veteran Chad le Clos is reportedly already in England to take care of breathing issues, after he had to pull out of the competition in Hungary earlier this week.