South Africa's swimmers added three more medals to the rapidly increasing Team SA haul at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham on Monday.
Pieter Coetzé claimed his second medal of the Games, adding the 50m backstroke silver to his 100m backstroke gold, while Erin Gallagher claimed silver in the 50m butterfly and Para-swimmer Christian Sadie bronze in the S7 50m freestyle.
The biggest smile of the night belonged to Gallagher who outgunned Olympic 100m butterfly champion Maggie MacNeil to earn joint silver with Australia’s Holly Barratt in a new national record time of 26.05. Australian Emma McKeon took the gold in 25.90.
“I could not be happier with that swim,” said a thrilled Gallagher afterwards. “I think the last few metres my eyes were closed. I can’t even remember the race to be honest. I put my head down and hoped for the best and I took a while to turn around and look at the time because I was nervous but when I saw the two there, I couldn’t believe it. I was so shocked.”
Coetzé was not quite as happy with his silver, after being out-touched by New Zealand’s Andrew Jeffcoat in the 50m backstroke. The Kiwi took the gold in 24.65 with Coetzé just .12 of a second behind.
“I’m a little bit disappointed but I’m still happy to get the medal and it’s always fun to race – especially with the crowd and everything.
“It was very close, it would have been nice to get the touch but that happens.”
While Sadie wasn’t particularly happy with his S7 50m freestyle race, he was please to claim a medal at his second consecutive Games after taking silver four years ago. It was Australia’s Matt Levy who claimed gold in 28.95, Singapore’s Wei Soong Toh the silver in 29.10, while Sadie finished in 29.78.
“I’m really chuffed to be on the podium. It was really nice racing with the guys. I think it’s the same podium as last time. The swim wasn’t as great as I wanted it to be but I’m happy,” he said afterwards.
Rebecca Meder was thrilled with her fourth place in the 200m individual medley in a new national record time of 2:12.01, taking over half a second off the previous mark which belonged to Kathryn Meaklim and had stood since 2009.
“I didn’t really think about the record while I was racing, I just swam my own race,” said Meder, who turned 20 on Sunday. “A bronze would have been amazing, but I came in ranked 10th or 11th and I just finished fourth at the Commonwealth Games. I’m so happy with that time.”
Meanwhile, earlier in the evening, Chad le Clos looked in fine form as he won his 100m butterfly semifinal in 51.64 to progress to Tuesday's final
“I’m over the moon, I’ve got a great lane draw, right next to the fastest guy Matt [Temple] – he’s going to be a big threat tomorrow night… Another medal would be great, but you know what I want,” he said referring to the gold medal.
Also safely through to his final was Michael Houlie who had to come from a way back to finish second in his 50m breaststroke semifinal and make his way through third fastest with a time of 27.39.
“It was fun. After this morning’s swim where I executed my race plan and strategy really well, I just tried to cut out everything, social media and stayed off my phone and stay relaxed and keep my mind calm so I was ready to get the job done which was to get in the final and get a good lane,” he said afterwards.
Tatjana Schoenmaker was back in the pool following her gold medal-winning performance in the 200m breaststroke - this time in the 100m event. She won her semifinal in 1:06.43 while compatriot and 200m breaststroke bronze medallist Kaylene Corbett finished fourth in 1:07.96 to also progress to the final.
“I just enjoyed myself out there tonight… It’s not the fastest time but I was very happy,” said Schoenmaker.
Meanwhile, it was teammate Lara van Niekerk who recorded the fastest time of the night, easily winning the other semifinal in 1:05.96, making sure there will once again be three South Africans in a breaststroke final at these Games.
“It’s only the second time I’ve gone 1:05 so I’m super-happy about that… I felt really comfortable. I have the morning off tomorrow so hopefully I can shave a bit more time off in the final,” she said.
Aimee Canny was the other South African to progress to her final. She finished third in her 100m freestyle semifinal in 54.78 to qualify sixth quickest.
“I did what I needed to do. I’m in the final and it’s on my PB so I’m very happy with that,” she said. “The first 25 I worked harder than I did this morning and then I tried to ease off a little bit so I had the legs in the last 25 so I was very happy.”
The final event of the evening saw the South African 4x200m freestyle relay team of Matt Sates, Le Clos, Andrew Ross and Coetzé finishing sixth in 7:13.76.
Pictured above: Erin Gallagher
Pictured below L-R: Christian Sadie and Pieter Coetze
Photo credit: @SouthAfricanSportsImages