Swimming: So close and yet so far for Coetzé and Van Niekerk


Two fourth places! This was the slightly sad story of the South African swimming team on the last night of the World Swimming Championships in Doha.

Pieter Coetzé finished fourth in the men’s 50 m backstroke in the first event of the evening session.

Coetzé, who won South Africa’s only medal (bronze) in the 100 m backstroke on Friday, was third fastest in the semi-finals, but on Sunday he was beaten by Isaac Cooper of Australia (24.13), Hunter Armstrong of America (24.33) and Poland’s Ksawery Masiuk (24.44) beat out.

Coetzé, who had a weaker reaction time than the three medal winners, was fourth in a time of 24.59.

In the second final of the evening, South Africa’s Lara van Niekerk also finished fourth in the women’s 50 m breaststroke.

The gold medal was won by the 26-year-old Ruta Meylutute from Lithuania in a time of 29.40.

The 19-year-old Chinese Qianting Tang was second (29.51) with Italy’s Benedatta Pilato third (30.01) followed by Van Niekerk (30.47).

With only one medal in the bag, it will be considered disappointing in certain circles, only a few months before the Olympic Games in France.

But the event was also a dress rehearsal for the Games.

That is why the performances of Coetzé and Van Niekerk, Erin Gallagher (fourth in the 100 m butterfly) and Chad le Clos (fifth in the 100 m butterfly) were not to be scorned at all.

Also bear in mind that the country’s leading female swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker-Smith did not participate in Doha as she is focusing all her attention on her preparation for Paris.