Matt Sates Wins 11 Events in Domination of South African Short-Course Championships

Matthew Sates; Photo Courtesy: Swimming South Africa

Matt Sates Wins 11 Events in Domination of South African Short-Course Championships

Matt Sates turned in a dominant performance at the South African Short-Course Championships this weekend, winning 11 events at the meet in Pietermaritzburg.

While Sates was the star on the men’s side, the women’s half of the meet generated the only two national records of the event, led by Lara Van Niekerk’s continental record in the 50 breaststroke.

Sates, 17, had his versatility on display. He won five freestyle events from 50 meters to 800, plus the 50 butterfly, 100 fly, 200 individual medley, 400 IM and 100 breast. The only sticking point was a disqualification in the 100 IM that denied him a chance at his stated goal of 12 medals.

Sates also won gold as part of the Seals ASC 200 free relay. The Seals were second in both the mixed 200 free relay and men’s 400 free relay.

Matt Sates sealed an automatic spot in the 2021 Short-Course World Championships in the 100 free with a time of 47.14, the 200 free (1:42.91), 400 free (3:43.01) and 400 IM (4:07.93). He went 3-for-3 in duels with fellow Olympian Pieter Coetze. Sates handled him in the 100 fly with a win in 50.61 seconds, another SC Worlds A cut. Sates bested Coetze in the 50 fly, and the two were neck-and-neck in the 50 free, Sates winning in 21.96 to nip Coetze by .03 and third-place Guy Brooks by .05.

Coetze won three events, the 100 IM and 50 and 100 back. He went 23.42 in the 50 back and 50.98 in the 100, both auto cuts for SC Worlds.

Coetze and Sates were two of four Olympians to take part in the meet. Sates qualified for the Tokyo Olympics this summer in the 100 fly and 200 IM, while Coetze swam the 100 back in Tokyo. Martin Binedell won the event in Pietermaritzburg that he had qualified for Tokyo in, the 200 back.

The lone female Olympian in the field was the big winner on the women’s side. Rebecca Meder won six gold medals in a tremendous showing, claiming all three IMs, plus the 100 free, 200 free and 100 fly. She was also second in prelims of the 100 back and 100 breast before scratching out of finals.

Meder posted a picturesque time of 1:00.00 in the 100 IM, taking down Aimee Canny’s South African record of 1:00.31. Meder had been second to Canny and under the existing record when Canny set the mark in 2020. Meder also outdueled Van Niekerk and earned an automatic spot in the SC World Championships.

Meder, who finished 23rd in the 200 IM in Tokyo, added Worlds auto cuts in that event (2:10.63) and the 400 IM (4:36.79).

Van Niekerk delivered the swim of the meet on its first day, uncorking a 29.85 in the women’s 50 breaststroke. She’s the first African woman ever to go under 30 seconds.

“We were just trying to break the 30-second barrier but I didn’t expect to break it by this much so I’m very surprised and super-happy,” Van Niekerk said in a press release.

In prelims, she had dashed the South African record of 30.20 seconds set in 2020 by gold medalist Tatjana Schoenamker, whom the 18-year-old van Niekerk called “a big role model of mine.”  She also downed the African record held by Kenya’s Achieng Ajulu-Bushell (30.11 from 2009).

Van Niekerk won the 100 breast and 200 breast in Worlds auto cuts of 1:05.01 and 2:23.65, respectively.

Hannah Pearse swept the 100 and 200 backstroke, and Caitlin de Lange sprinted to wins in the 40 fly and 50 free.