South African swimmer Matt Sates
Pietermaritzburg swimmer Matt Sates spearheaded an impressive effort from South African swimmers at the opening round of the four-leg FINA World Cup series in Berlin over the weekend.
The 18-year-old Olympian claimed a clean sweep of the individual medley events and claimed gold in the 200m freestyle, setting two new short course junior world records in the process.
In touching the wall in 1:51.45 for gold in the 200IM, Sates bettered Japanese Daiya Seto’s previous mark set nine years ago by over a second.
It also meant he broke Athens Olympic champion Darian Townsend’s South African and African record of 1:51.55, which was achieved in the same Berlin pool in 2009 and was then a world record.
“I’m very happy with my swims so far, just being here to race has been a privilege,” said Sates of his performance in Berlin.
“I wasn’t expecting to be that fast at all and did not even know what the junior world record was. I am just swimming each race as they come and just trying to improve.
“There is a lot of racing ahead for these next three weeks so it’s great to start like this.”
Sates’s coach Wayne Riddin, who also coached Townsend before his move to the USA, admitted: “There was no Junior World Championships, and that was where Matt wanted to break the long course junior world record, so I decided that we would come to Berlin, because this is where Darian broke the world record in 2009.
“In my head, I had the 1:51.55 as the target, but when we went 1:55.43 at the SA Short Course Championships, I thought maybe that was a bit of a big drop. When he did so well in the 400m freestyle and 100 IM on the first night [in Berlin], I thought maybe it was still a possibility, but I was a bit nervous to jinx it and say it out loud.”
Sates was in record-breaking form once again in the 200m freestyle, claiming gold ahead of 2016 Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers of Australia in a junior world mark of 1:40.65.
That also saw him eclipsing the senior SA and African record belonging to Townsend.
Apart from gold in the 100, 200 and 400IM and the 200m freestyle, the teenager also claimed silver in the 400m freestyle.
Meanwhile, 2012 Olympic champion Chad le Clos also left Berlin with a significant haul of medals.
Having been pipped to the gold by Tom Shields in the 100m butterfly, Le Clos turned the tables in the 200m event a day later. He put in a massive final 25m to overtake the American, finishing in 1:50.32.
“I was very, very happy with that. It was more a morale boost than anything, up against one of the greatest short course fly swimmers of all time – good friend of mine Tom Shields,” said Le Clos afterwards.
“I’m just looking to build on that, get back for next year’s Commonwealth Games, get back on top of the podium and push towards 2024. I think a lot of people expected me to fade away after Olympics, but I’ve proved that I’m back and this is really nothing, a small taste of what’s to come in the future,” added Le Clos, who extended his all-time World Cup record to 146 gold medals with the win.
“Obviously a huge shoutout to Matthew as well for a phenomenal junior world records. I’m very happy for him.”
Le Clos later added to his gold and silver with a bronze in the 50m butterfly in 22.48.
Also reaching the podium in Berlin was Martin Binedell, who claimed bronze in the 200m backstroke in 1:52.86.
The mixed 4x50m medley relay team of Le Clos, Brad Tandy, Tayla Lovemore and Emily Visagie also took bronze behind Germany and the USA.
The South Africans finished the meet fourth on the medal table behind Australia, Germany and the USA.World Cup action now moves to Budapest for the second leg of the series from 7-9 October.