SA Champs conqueror Pieter Coetzé takes fourth title in four days

SA Champs conqueror Pieter Coetzé takes fourth title in four days
Pieter Coetzé won gold in the 100m backstroke on day 4 of the SA National Aquatic Championships at Newton Park Swimming Pool, Gqeberha. (Photo: Anton Geyser/Gallo Images)

The 19-year-old is yet to lose a race at the SA National Swimming Championships in Gqeberha and has secured Olympic qualifying times in three of the four events in which he took part.

For a fourth consecutive evening, Pieter Coetzé left the South African National Swimming Championships with a gold medal dangling from his neck. This time it was in the men’s 100m backstroke, where he touched the wall in 52.89 seconds.

The 19-year-old swimmer from Pretoria had already won the 50m backstroke, 100m freestyle and 200m backstroke events this week, securing Olympic qualifying times in all, bar the 100m freestyle.

“It feels great,” he said after exiting the pool on Thursday. “I actually wanted Ruard [van Renen] to also get the [Olympic] time.”

Van Renen finished second in 54.50 and Henju Duvenhage closed out the podium in third at a time of 55.25. The Olympic qualifying time for the 100m backstroke is 53.74.

It was the second time in the day that Coetzé had surpassed the required time, having swum 53.05 in the heats on Thursday morning.

“It would be really nice to get two of us [qualified for the Olympics], but I think he will get it eventually,” Coetzé said. “ I’m really rooting for him.”

Although the two swimmers sandwiched the Olympic qualifying time in the final, it was a tight race to the finish line.

“He’s always going to be fast underwater so I knew after the turn I’m just going to try and get up and swim as fast as possible [because] he is going to stay under[water] and he did, so props to him, he did really well,” Coetzé said.

Despite swimming at least one heat and final every day so far, the week is far from over for Coetzé who will still compete in the 50m freestyle and the 200m individual medley (IM), outside of the relays.

“I’m doing the 200 IM heat,” he said. “I’m still deciding if I’ll do the final because it’s been years since I’ve done it and I know it’s a race that really hurts and my breaststroke sucks. 

“I’m not too excited for that one but I will be doing it.”

sa champs drakopoulos

Milla Drakopoulos took gold in the women’s 100m backstroke. (Photo: Anton Geyser / Gallo Images)

In the women’s 100m backstroke, Milla Drakopoulos took first place in 1:01.7.

“The time wasn’t too good but I’m just grateful to God,” she said. “It’s been a tough week. I’ve been racing a lot.

“I’ve still got the relay on Saturday which will help, I’ve got a day off tomorrow [Friday] so I can rest and hopefully get that time on Saturday.”

“My PB is only 1.2 seconds off and I’ve been training like I’ve never been training before, so the time will come.”

Other winners

Coetzé was the highlight of a relatively quiet Thursday evening session. There were several 4x50m men’s and women’s freestyle relay heats that closed out the evening.

Earlier, Minke Janse van Rensburg secured a world record time of 38.46 in the 50m butterfly for swimmers with Down Syndrome.

Duné Coetzee swam a personal best in the 400m freestyle (4:09.43), claiming the national title, but she was still two seconds short of the Olympic qualifying time.

Teenagers Callan Lotter (4:17.18) and Catherine van Rensburg (4:18.45) rounded out the top three.

Matthew Caldwell became national champion in the 400m freestyle in a time of 3:54.27. DM


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