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Meder, Nel rewrite the record books on second night of South African swimming champs

Meder, Nel rewrite the record books on second night of South African swimming champs
Rebecca Meder after breaking the South African 200m IM record at the SA Nationals in Gqeberha on Thursday. (Photo: Supplied by Swimming SA)

There were more records broken in the swimming pool on the second night of finals at the SA National Championships.

Rebecca Meder and Olivia Nel ensured the record-breaking continued on the second night of action at the SA National Aquatic Championships in Gqeberha on Thursday.

Meder kicked things off in the 200m individual medley, bettering her own South African record set at the 2022 Commonwealth Games to claim the title in a speedy 2:11.39.

That ensured she dipped well under the A qualifying time for the Swimming World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, this July. It also saw her swimming under the even more stringent A qualification time for next year’s Paris Olympic Games.

“To be honest, it didn’t feel that fast – I thought I was going to miss it. I read a bible verse before… I was literally reciting that verse as I was swimming,” explained an elated Meder after the race.

“I knew I could go 2:12.9 but 2:11.3 was just wow! So I’m really proud of myself.

Olivia Nel on her way to breaking the SA 50m backstroke record at the SA Nationals in Gqeberha on Thursday. (Photo: Supplied by Swimming SA)

“I knew coming in I’m the strongest, fittest and leanest I’ve ever been, so I knew with all of those statistics I should be the fastest I’ve ever been.

“This pool has brought me much heartache before, missing the qualifying times for the Olympics and Commonwealth Games… so I’m really stoked.”

Back-to-back for Nel

Nel claimed her record in the women’s 50m backstroke. Fresh from her victory in the 100m backstroke on Wednesday, the 20-year-old took the sprint title in a new South African mark of 28.39, bettering Chanelle van Wyk’s 2009 time of 28.55.

“I knew the SA record was 28.5 so I was really just hoping for anything under that. I’m just so stoked with that,” said Nel after the race. “I love my backstroke races.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Schoenmaker back in the fast lane with world-class time at SA Champs

“I actually haven’t been training too much backstroke this season, so to come here and do really well, I’m really happy about that. I’ve just been really excited to race these events.”

Pieter Coetzé, meanwhile, came within two-hundredths of a second of one of the older South African men’s swimming records, in the 50m backstroke. He powered to victory in 24.36 seconds, placing him top in the world so far this year but just short of Gerhard Zandberg’s 2009 mark.

“I’m very happy with it. Hopefully I can get the record before the end of the year,” said the 18-year-old who broke his own South African and African 100m backstroke record on Wednesday.

“It definitely felt really good and smooth and it felt like I wasn’t going all over the place too much – I was pretty straight so it definitely felt good.”

Lucky 13 for Le Clos

Veteran Chad le Clos contested his first event of the championships, taking an impressive 13th national title in the 200m butterfly.

He was pushed all the way by 19-year-old Ethan du Preez, who turned first for the final 50m, but in characteristic style Le Clos powered past to win in 1:56.05 and claim a World Championship A qualifying time. Du Preez was second in a B qualifying time of 1:57.09.

“I thought I would be a bit faster, to be fair, but I always get nervous for Nationals for some reason – it scares me every time I race here,” admitted Le Clos afterwards.

Although he admitted to being a little nervous, Chad le Clos won the 200m butterfly and qualified for the World Championships in the process. (Photo: Supplied by Swimming SA)

“I was just trying to go with Ethan and try to be as flowy as possible. Obviously I got tired in the last 10m but my head was down. I’m sad that he didn’t get the [A qualifying] time as well,” added Le Clos.

“I was confident I was going to qualify tonight but I just wanted to swim it my way and control the race, not let my emotions control me like I was in the past.”

Two swimmers with a disability also achieved qualifying times for the Para Swimming World Championships in Manchester, England, from 31 July to 6 August.

Commonwealth Games bronze medallist Christian Sadie swam 29.37 in the morning heats to qualify in the S7 50m freestyle. Kat Swanepoel did the same in the women’s S4 50m freestyle, finishing in a new continental record time of 42.97 seconds.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Roland Schoeman (42) back in action at SA Swimming Champs

“I took two African records, in the 50m breaststroke and the 100m backstroke yesterday, and then today in the 50m freestyle,” she said afterwards.

“We’ve been working hard and my times have been looking good, but you’ve always got a bit of a doubt because training doesn’t always compute to competition. But I’ve got the qualifying times for world champs and the Paralympics so it’s looking good for the future.”

Newly crowned South African Sportsperson of the Year with a disability Minke Janse van Rensburg provided another highlight of the night, speeding to a new open world record for swimmers with Down syndrome in the 50m freestyle, in a time of 34.17 seconds.

Swimming action continues at the Newton Park Swimming Pool in Gqeberha on Friday and ends on Sunday, 16 April. DM

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