SA golden teen Lara van Niekerk smashes African record in Pietermaritzburg

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Pretoria teenager Lara van Niekerk continued her sensational form at the SA Short Course Championships on Saturday, storming to yet another SA and African record in the Pietermaritzburg pool.

The 19-year-old double Commonwealth Games gold medallist stormed to victory in the 50m breaststroke in 29.62 seconds to better the record she set in the morning heats (29.67) and at the same event a year ago (29.85). In doing so, she also secured another A qualification mark for the World Short Course Championships in Melbourne, Australia in December.

She may have gone faster than ever before, but Van Niekerk reckoned afterwards, it could have been even quicker.

"I definitely think I can go faster - especially coming back from such a big competition [like the Commonwealth Games], you are very tired," she said after the race. 

"When I go back from the heats sessions, I literally just go and sleep... I'm dead because such a big competition takes so much out of you.

"I think my results could have been slightly better - if I had all that energy I had at Commonwealths so I think the future will have better times," she added.

Also once again showing his class was 18-year-old Pieter Coetzé, who dipped below the A qualifying mark on his way to victory in the 100m backstroke in 51.08. He also claimed the 50m freestyle title in 22.28, after edging ahead of Commonwealth Games teammate Clayton Jimmie (second in 22.32).

"I just wanted to get at least one qualifying time here so I was very happy to get that done and I'm excited to rest a little bit now ahead of the World Junior Championships," said Coetzé, referring to his next major competition, which will take place in Lima, Peru from 30 August to 4 September. 

"It will be nice to get back to basics, train a little bit and get some schoolwork done - and then I'm excited for Peru. It will be a long flight and everything, but I'm excited to see what I can do there," he added.

Meanwhile, several other swimmers in Pietermaritzburg achieved B qualifying times, which will still put them in contention for selection for the World Short Course Championships later in the year.

Caitlin de Lange claimed the national 50m freestyle title in a time of 25.27. Her morning heat time of 31.47 in the 50m breaststroke was also a B qualifier, while she also previously achieved the required time in the 100m freestyle.

"It's going better than expected," admitted De Lange afterwards. "I just got back from racing in Ireland, so I was really looking forward to coming and racing short course."

Rebecca Meder claimed the 200m individual medley title in a B qualifying time of 2:10.38, with second-placed Tucker also dipping under the mark in 2:13.24.

Local teen Matt Sates then did the same in the men's 200 IM, taking his sixth title of the Championships in a time of 1:55.98, while Stephanie Houtman claimed victory in the 400m freestyle in a B qualifying time of 4:14.19 with second-placed Catherine van Rensburg also achieving the qualifier in 4:15.19.


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