Swimmers Emma Chelius and Pieter Coetzé qualify for Tokyo Olympics
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By Karien Jonckheere
GQEBERHA – Emma Chelius and Pieter Coetzé added their names to the list of Olympic qualifiers on the final day of the SA Swimming Championships in Gqeberha on Monday.
Chelius sprung a surprise in the morning heats when she dashed to a new South African record of 24.72 seconds in the 50m freestyle – and with that dipped under the Olympic qualifying mark of 24.77.
Her time of 25.0 seconds in the evening final was not another qualifier but it did secure her the national title, and she’d done enough in the morning to book a ticket to Tokyo anyway.
“It was my goal going into the meet to hit the time as early as possible. Obviously you can dream and scheme but to execute in the morning was a real blessing because it just took the pressure off for this evening so that was really great,” said Chelius afterwards.
“The record was an added bonus for sure. My main focus was the Olympic qualifying time. I knew it was going to be tough. It was quite a big chunk off my previous personal best [25.05] so I really had to dig deep,” added Chelius whose husband Troyden Prinsloo represented the country in swimming at two Olympic Games, in 2008 and 2012.
It was then Pieter Coetzé who provided a thrilling ending to the championships. The 16-year-old narrowly missed out on qualification on his way to the 100m backstroke title last week, but dipped under the required time in the opening leg of the 4x100m medley relay, touching in 53.62 seconds.
“It was very important for me to stay calm after not making it,” he said after the final race of the meet. “That could have been the end for me if I went the wrong way mentally but I had my amazing coach with me who definitely helped me and told me the right words at the right time and I’m glad I could keep it together and pull through.
“It feels amazing. I need to say thank you to God. I’m very grateful – and to my parents, they wake up at 5 with me and take me to the pool every morning, so I don’t know what I did to deserve this but I’m very, very happy.”
Just a race earlier, the women’s quartet of Rebecca Meder, Tatjana Schoenmaker, Erin Gallagher and Aimee Canny shattered the SA and African 4x100m medley relay record that has stood for 13 years. They clocked 4:01.92 to take 1.7 seconds off the previous mark.
Meanwhile, Matt Sates fell agonisingly short of the Olympic qualifying mark in the men’s 200m individual medley, claiming the title in 1:59.69 – just two hundredths of a second off the required time.