Venter leads schoolkid challenge at Commonwealth trials

18 December 2017 - 10:25
By David Isaacson
Mariella Venter Women 50 LC Meter Backstroke during day 4 of the 2017 SA National Aquatic Championships at Kings Park Aquatic Centre on April 06, 2017 in Durban.
Image: Steve Haag/Gallo Images Mariella Venter Women 50 LC Meter Backstroke during day 4 of the 2017 SA National Aquatic Championships at Kings Park Aquatic Centre on April 06, 2017 in Durban.

Schoolgirl Mariella Venter battled through a viral infection to post a Commonwealth Games qualifying time in the 100m backstroke in Durban on Sunday evening.

She required medical attention straight afterwards‚ being placed on oxygen at poolside before she could start enjoying her achievement.

“The moment I touched my throat closed up‚” said Venter‚ who put her herself into contention for selection for the Gold Coast 2018 showpiece alongside veterans Cameron van der Burgh and Chad Le Clos as well as four other pupils.

So far 14 swimmers‚ five of them female‚ have achieved the qualifying times.

Venter‚ 17‚ had gone to hospital two days earlier because of the infection which had hit her throat and ears.

“I just decided I’ve worked so hard I wanted to swim here‚” she said‚ adding she had never experienced something like that before. “It was frightening.”

Venter first sat down on the pool deck trying to catch her breath‚ before a medic was summoned.

Her 1min 02.55sec was just inside the 1:02.73 qualifying mark‚ but more than a second outside her own personal best.

“I had been hoping to go faster until I got sick‚” said Venter‚ who won gold medals in the 100m and 200m backstroke at the Youth Commonwealth Games earlier this year.

The Linden High School pupil also competed at the world junior championships in the US‚ using the trip to check out the University of Michigan where she will go after competing matric next year.

Erin Gallagher‚ who had qualified in the 100m butterfly on the opening night on Saturday‚ won the 50m freestyle in 25.35‚ adding her name to the roster.

But impressively‚ the second and third finishers behind her‚ Emma Chelius‚ 21‚ and Olivia Nel‚ 15‚ also made the 26.06 qualifying time.

Bishops pupil Michael Houlie‚ who goes into matric next year‚ qualified in the 100m breaststroke behind veteran Cameron van der Burgh.

And 15-year-old Duné Coetzee from Afrikaans Girl High in Pretoria pipped US-based Marlies Ross in the 200m freestyle to snatch a qualifying time.

Luan Grobbelaar‚ 15‚ a training partner of Houlie’s in Cape Town‚ qualified in the 400m individual medley behind Ayrton Sweeney.

Le Clos easily won the 200m freestyle and 50m butterfly races‚ with Jarryd Baxter also qualifying in the longer race.

Le Clos’s times were nothing to shout home about‚ but going fast isn’t his goal.

“I’ve done some serious‚ serious work‚” he explained. “Coming into [here] I hadn’t tapered.

“I wanted to swim technically well‚” he said of the freestyle.

“It’s very important to try win that one [at Commonwealth]‚” said Le Clos‚ who took the Olympic silver at the Rio Games last year.

Swimming SA’s qualifying times in Durban are based on the B standards for the world championships earlier this year that were set by Fina‚ the world governing body.

The SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee (Sascoc)‚ which picks the team‚ is demanding top 10 rankings in the Commonwealth‚ which some of the swimmers here have achieved.