Lara van Niekerk and Rebecca Meder ensured the SA Short Course Championships in Pietermaritzburg ended on a high note with both swimmers dipping under the A qualifying time for the World Short Course Championships at the end of the year in the 200m breaststroke.
It was an impressive result for both swimmers, considering Van Niekerk is better known for her sprinting in the 50m and 100m breaststroke events, while Meder is more of an individual medley swimmer.
Both admitted afterwards that having the other to compete against in the race made all the difference. Van Niekerk took the national title in a time of 2:22.75 with Meder second in 2:23.37.
“I think if she hadn’t been next to me, I definitely wouldn’t have gone that hard so I’m super-happy,” said Van Niekerk.
“It’s another A qualifying time and a good way to end off this whole competition thing I’ve had going for the last four months,” added the 19-year-old double Commonwealth Games champion who also achieved A qualifying times in the 50 and 100m breaststroke in Pietermaritzburg.
“We laughed at the end of the race and said if we hadn’t been next to each other, we don’t know if we would have gone that time but it’s a good way to end the meet,” said Meder.
“I never thought I’d get an A time in the 200 breaststroke but being able to go B times in all my other heat swims and then again in the finals is great. I finally feel more like myself… it’s good confidence for me for my medleys.”
Van Niekerk’s coach Eugene da Ponte was also pleased with the week’s work.
“It’s been a good gala overall coming off the international season we’ve just been through. There wasn’t much of a break before we went into this, so I was expecting Lara to be a little bit tired,” he said.
“She still got through the week with three qualifying times so I’m not going to complain. I think it was pretty successful overall. We managed to go a little bit faster in all three events than we were here last year… so overall a good gala and we’re happy with the results,” added Da Ponte.
Meanwhile, two swimmers also managed to dip under the B qualifying mark in the 1500m freestyle – which puts them in the running for selection to the team to compete at the World Short Course Championships in Melbourne in December.
Stephanie Houtman claimed the national title in 16:42.10 with Catherine van Rensburg second in 16:48.60. Dakota Tucker was the other swimmer to dip below the B qualifying time on Sunday, claiming the 200m butterfly title in 2:13.25.