SA teen star Coetzé on track to win first world championship medal

12 February 2024 - 19:08
Spain's Hugo Gonzalez congratulates Pieter Coetzé after their 100m backstroke semifinal in Doha on Monday.
Image: REUTERS/Clodagh Kilcoyne Spain's Hugo Gonzalez congratulates Pieter Coetzé after their 100m backstroke semifinal in Doha on Monday.

Teenager Pieter Coetzé is on track to land his maiden world championship medal on Tuesday night after delivering a strong performance to win his 100m backstroke semifinal in Doha on Monday evening.

Coetzé out-powered his rivals across the pool to touch first in 53.07 sec, making him the second fastest of the field behind American Hunter Armstrong, who won the other semifinal in 53.04.

The 19-year-old Tuks star doesn’t have the best underwater skills in the field and that cost him coming off the wall at the turn, but his strength on the surface is on another level, and he easily chased down his rivals to get to the finish first.

Coetzé, the Commonwealth Games champion in this event who has also done well at the junior world championships, is looking for his first medal at this level.

But winning gold will be tough because Armstrong, 23, has an Olympic gold and nine world championship gongs, including the 100m backstroke bronze at the past two editions.

Lara van Niekerk was eliminated in the 100m breaststroke semifinals on Monday, finishing 13th overall in 1 min 07.25 sec.

Two years ago Van Niekerk looked on track to be a contender at the Paris Olympics after winning the Commonwealth Games in a personal best 1:05.47.

The closest she’s been since was the 1:06.65 she posted in March last year, a time that secured her qualification for Paris, though local selectors want swimmers to repeat qualifying times at the national championships in April.

The only other South African in action on Monday night, Erin Gallagher, ended seventh in the women’s 100m butterfly final in 57.83. She was fifth at the turn but was unable to keep the pace on the second lap.

The 57.59 African record Gallagher set in Sunday’s heats would have earned her fifth spot.

Matthew Sates failed to advance beyond the heats of the 200m freestyle in the morning, but on Tuesday morning he competes in one of his main events, the 200m butterfly.