Olympic places on the line at SA swimming champs in Gqeberha

The country’s top swimmers head to Gqeberha this week for the National Championships which this year take on extra importance as they serve as Olympic trials ahead of Paris 2024.

Among them, and looking to confirm his spot at a fourth Olympic Games, is veteran Chad le Clos. The 31-year-old has returned to the country from his training base in Frankfurt, Germany, and says being at home for the past week has made all the difference.

“It’s been a little bit hard being away for so long. So it’s good for me to be at home, to get my head back in the game, have some sunshine, eat my dad’s food and be about the family,” admitted the four-time Olympic medallist.

“Everything is good. I’ve had a huge block of training, especially since the world champs so I might be a little bit overcooked in the sense of training but I’m ready for next week. I think it’s going to be good.

“I’m not expecting to set the world alight … But it would be good to defend those titles and see what happens and go from there,” added Le Clos who has entered for the 100 and 200m butterfly and the 100m freestyle.

Also looking forward to the week ahead is young gun Pieter Coetzé who was the country’s only medallist at the recent World Aquatics Championships in Doha, picking up a bronze in the 200m backstroke.

“I’m feeling very good heading into trials. I’ve been doing some good training and it’s been tough but it’s always good to be positive so I’m looking forward to be racing again,” said the 19-year-old.

“I’ve got some good memories in the PE pool, so I’m feeling confident. I wouldn’t really say I’m hoping for anything but I’d like to put up some good performances and boost my confidence heading towards Paris.”

Coetzé famously qualified for the delayed 2020 Olympics in the same Gqeberha pool at the age of just 16.

Also looking to boost her confidence ahead of Paris is breaststroke queen Tatjana Schoenmaker, who chose to skip the World Championships in February but will be looking to defend her Olympic title in the 200m breaststroke in the French capital later this year.

Fellow breaststrokers Kaylene Corbett and Lara van Niekerk will also be in the mix. Corbett finished fifth in the same race that Schoenmaker won her Olympic gold and set a world record, while Van Niekerk is gunning for a place at her first Olympic Games.

“I am looking forward to building on my performances from world champs,” said Van Niekerk.

“There are lessons my coach and I took from my races and now we want to implement them at Nationals and see how fast I can go.

“But as always, I am just focusing on giving my best and then I will think about Paris,” added the two-time Commonwealth Games champion.

Swimming action begins at the Newton Park Swimming Pool on Monday and will continue until Saturday.

HeraldLIVE/Swimming SA

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