Every South African a Swimmer

Le Clos shakes off nerves to secure qualifying time at SA Swimming Championships

Le Clos shakes off nerves to secure qualifying time at SA Swimming Championships
The 29-year-old had looked a little sluggish in the morning heats of the 200m butterfly but powered to victory in the final in 1:55.75 to dip under the required time by almost a second.

With that he also secured his 12th consecutive national title in the event.

“I’m over the moon. I was very nervous… not nervous to race anybody but I needed to qualify,” said the 2012 Olympic champion, who is a three-time Commonwealth champion in the event.

“I made sure I took it out strong and I tried to get something from the race. I didn’t want to go kamikazi and then die at the end. I wanted to be in control, good stroke rate, tempo, good underwaters at all three turns. So it was a very important for me just to swim a solid race.

“I’m also just happy to get the qualifying time. Nationals is always a stressful time for me, I don’t know why, I get nervous and you’ve got to get that monkey off your back so now that it’s off I’m very happy.”

Le Clos was back in the pool later in the evening for the 100m freestyle, but it was young challenger Matt Sates who secured top honours there, winning in a time of 48.97 with the veteran a distant fifth in 50.86.

Meanwhile, securing her second qualification time of the meet was Olympic champion and world record-holder Tatjana Schoenmaker, who swam 2:25.16 in the morning 200m breaststroke heats and followed that up with a 2:24.01 in the final. Her teammate, Kaylene Corbett, also achieved qualifying times in both races with a 2:25.41 in the morning and a 2:24.66 in the final for the silver medal.

“It burned a lot more than the Olympics,” admitted Schoenmaker afterwards. “But I just wanted to make the Commonwealth team and I can’t wait to race internationally again. Obviously this isn’t the best time, but that’s not what it’s about at the moment. It’s about getting back into racing again after such a big event so I’m happy.”

It was an emotional result for Corbett, who had to swim a time trial at last year’s championships to qualify for the Olympic Games, where she then progressed all the way to the final.

“This year I was definitely coming in with intent to try and get this time as soon as possible and not put as much pressure on myself to get a qualifying time… There are a lot of emotions being back at this pool and swimming that time really means a lot to me.

“I’m just happy it’s over and I get to hopefully be on the Commonwealth team so that’s always just a huge plus side for me – to be able to race and compete for my country,” she said.

Elsewhere, teenage star Pieter Coetzé secured another qualifying mark, in the 50m backstroke. He dipped under the required time with a 24.94 in the heats and then bettered that with a 24.74 in the final, which he won comfortably to add to the 100m backstroke title already in the bag. Coetzé also finished second in the 100m freestyle behind Sates in 50.17

“I didn’t expect to go that much quicker so I was very happy with that. It’s definitely nice to get quite a few times and not just one,” said the 17-year-old after the backstroke. I’m hoping for the 200m backstroke and maybe the 50 free – we’ll see.”

Having missed out on qualifying in the individual 50m freestyle on Thursday, Olympic semi-finalist Emma Chelius dipped under the mark during the opening leg of the 4x50m freestyle relay, reaching the wall in 24.95 seconds.

“I was hoping to go under 25 seconds, that was the plan from the start,” said Chelius. “I had much better preparation going into this evening. I warmed up at a different pool because I really battle with the cold and I’m feeling it quite a lot here. I think that was a much better start for me and it just meant I felt a lot more speed during the race and it all came together, so I was happy.”

Other winners on the night were Erin Gallagher in the 50m butterfly in 26.39, just missing out on the qualifying time by seven hundredths of a second, while Stephanie Houtman took top honours in the 1500m freestyle in 16:55.55.

Swimming continues at the Newton Park swimming pool on Saturday and finishing on Monday, 11 April.