South Africa’s Matt Sates finished in eighth place in his first ever World Championships final on Wednesday night.
The 18-year-old was the youngest swimmer in the 200m individual medley final and was third quickest off the blocks. He then touched in second place on the first turn after the butterfly leg but dropped well back on the backstroke and left himself with too much catching up to do.
Sates finished in 1:58.27 with Frenchman Leon Marchand taking the gold in 1:55.22, American Carson Foster the silver in 1:55.71 and Japan’s defending champion Daiya Seto the bronze in 1:56.22.
The Maritzburg swimmer said afterwards he was feeling tired even before the start of the final – perhaps the effects of his previous races and the cold he is still recovering from. The speedy butterfly leg of the medley also took its toll on the young star who will be back in action in the 100m butterfly heats on Thursday.
Earlier in the day, Emma Chelius was seventh in her 100m freestyle heat in a time of 55.39 to finish 22nd overall. Her main focus is the 50m event, however, with the heats scheduled for Friday. Chelius swam a speedy SA record time of 24.65 at last year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo to reach the semi-finals where she went even quicker, finishing in another national record time of 24.64.
Elsewhere the South African women’s water polo team came up against Argentina in a tight encounter. They led 3-2 at half time but the third quarter proved costly with the Argentinians scoring three goals to the South Africans’ one. All square with one minute to go in the match, Argentina struck with just 10 seconds on the clock to sneak the win 7-6.
“Going into the game we were never expected to win it,” explained SA coach Delaine Mentoor. “But I think that we had really good moments of play, especially given the lack of time we had in terms of preparation.
“Our girls fought for every single goal that we scored. At some point we were down by two goals and the girls came back. But I think the difference in the end was the inexperience… For us having not ever played together, knowing how to fend them off in those dying seconds and just play a smart game of water polo is a little bit difficult to adapt to,” added Mentoor.
“Overall you could see that our more experienced players really carried the game and they were our goal scorers. But other than that, South Africa for the first time had a full-on attacking team, where we normally play a big defensive game to try and keep the score low. Now we really gave it a fighting chance and actually put up a really good performance in terms of what SA water polo could look like.”
The SA men’s team will play their second match of the competition against Spain on Thursday.