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World Aquatics Championships 2024 | Pieter Coetzé will fight for South Africa’s first medal at the World Aquatics Championships

Coetzé powers into world champs backstroke final

Pretoria teenager Pieter Coetzé will fight for South Africa’s first medal at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha on Tuesday after powering into the 100m backstroke final.

The 19-year-old won his morning heat in a time of 53.32 seconds to progress to the evening semifinals as the fastest qualifier. He then won his semifinal in 53.07 to book a place in Tuesday night’s final as the second-quickest on the night.

“I’m feeling good, happy to make it back to the final,” he said afterward. “That’s all I really wanted to do so now I’m just going to go back, relax and recover and hopefully be back stronger tomorrow.

“I’m not really planning on changing anything, just hoping to focus on my strengths and to allow my body to do what I know it’s been doing daily for a long time.”

Meanwhile, competing in her first ever World Championships final after setting a new African record on Sunday, Erin Gallagher finished seventh in the 100m butterfly in 57.83 seconds. Germany’s Angelina Kohler claimed the gold medal in a time of 56.28 with American Claire Curzan taking silver in 56.61 and Sweden’s Louise Hansson the bronze in 56.94.

“I’m very happy and blessed to have swum in my first ever world champs final,” said Gallagher. “It was such an incredible experience. There’s a lot to take away from the race. I think my coach wanted me to go out faster in the first 50, which I’m happy I was able to do. The second 50 hurt just a little bit more but there’s so much to learn from this going forward.

“I’m looking forward to the rest of the week and just seeing what I can do. It’s very good race practice for the year ahead.”

Lara van Niekerk was some way off her best time in both the heats and semifinal of the 100m breaststroke. She finished sixth in her heat in 1:07.61 but, unlike Lithuania’s defending world champion Ruta Meilutyte, still managed to progress to the semifinals where she then finished in seventh place in 1:07.25 and out of finals contention.

“It was a tough race but I felt good, better than in Japan last year even though it was slightly slower. I’m getting my rhythm back and swimming more like my old stroke which is a positive,” said Van Niekerk.

“I did have a better swim in the semifinal than in the heats this morning so our adjustments did work and we are getting there but there’s still a lot of work to do.

“This is what this gala was all about – to see what we still need to adjust and do leading up to Paris.”

Earlier in the day, Stephanie Houtman won her 1500m freestyle heat in a time of 16:35.39 to finish 18th overall and did not progress to the final.

The only other South Africans in action were 17-year-old Milla Drakopoulos who finished 26th overall in the women’s 100m backstroke heats in 1:02.80 and Matt Sates who was 27th overall in the 200m freestyle after finishing eighth in his heat in 1:47.98. Both missed out on a spot in the evening semifinals.

Swimming continues on Tuesday morning with Duné Coetzee (200m freestyle), Chad le Clos and Matt Sates (both 200m butterfly) all in action.

Photo: SA Sports Images

Swimming, SA Team, SA Sports News, World Aquatics Championships, 2024

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