Commonwealth Young Games 2023 | Jessica Thompson wins Gold in 50m butterfly
By GARY LEMKE
Team SA doubled their medals tally on day two of the Commonwealth Young Games in Trinidad & Tobago, with swimmer Jessica Thompson adding to cycling’s Miles Liebenberg’s gold from Saturday.
Thompson laid down her own marker ahead of the upcoming World Juniors in Israel by twice breaking Erin Gallagher’s Commonwealth Youth Games record in Trinidad’s National Aquatic Centre. In the morning heats she lowered the record to 26.89 seconds and then went even faster a couple of hours later with a 26.84 swim.
That saw her claim Team SA’s first medal, and it was gold, in the pool where they are traditionally strong. The likes of Chad le Clos (2008), Erin Gallagher (2015) and Michael Houlie (2017) have all won gold at these Games and gone on to represent the country on the biggest stages, like the senior Commonwealth Games, World Championships and Olympics.
A similar career path is predicted for the star 16-year-old St Stithians swimmer from Johannesburg.
Afterwards, a delighted Thompson said she was aware of the occasion of a championships held in an outdoor swimming pool on the island, which is covered with a roof to combat the rain when it falls.
“It means so much to have competed against Erin at SA Nationals and then coming to a gala like this and seeing at my age where she was. Just comparing me and her time then when she was younger to mine now, and then to see what she has achieved, the latest at the World Student Games in China, is unbelievable. Hopefully one day I can step up and be at her level,” Thompson said.
There were six swimmers who competed in the evening finals from Team SA, with Thompson involved in two of them (the 50m butterfly and 100m backstroke) and the others being Cassidy Burgess (100m backstroke), Kris Mihaylov (200m freestyle), Simone Moll (200m breaststroke) and Kian Keylock (200m breaststroke).
While Keylock placed fourth, missing out on a medal by just 0.23 seconds, the day, and night, belonged to Thompson.
In reflecting on the difference between the morning, and evening’s swim, she said: “The morning swim was about getting rid of the cobwebs. I haven’t swum a proper gala in about three months so coming here was very nerve-racking. It’s my second international competition so there’s always going to be a bit of nerves.
“In the morning swim I was more relaxed, more comfortable. I was so insanely, unbelievably excited about breaking Erin’s Youth Games record this morning. Then, to double it up in the final … I didn’t expect that. Swimming the final was all about winning a medal, finding the spot where I could break the record again, which I did. It was an extremely proud moment for me, my family and my country.”
Looking into the crystal ball the teenager who turned 16 in April, said that her main goal for the year was the Junior Worlds in Israel next month. “That’s my main gala for the year, so I’m tapering here. This is more a prep event for Israel. Next year I’m going to try my hardest to qualify for the Paris Olympics. I know that 2028 in Los Angeles is a good opportunity, but next year with the gift of God, I’m hoping to be able to get to Paris.”
Elsewhere on Sunday, Team SA were included in three other sports – beach volleyball, men’s rugby sevens (won both matches without conceding a point) and triathlon.
Photo by Roger Sedres
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