The Citizen (KZN)

Tired Coetze just had ‘fun’

- Wesley Bo on

He admitted he was tired after a long week in the pool, but Pieter Coetze (above) 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 is 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.

Meanwhile, a few other swimmers also showcased their form at the six-day event, which ended 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.

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 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, which runs from 26 July to 11 August.

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