Le Clos joins promising young swimmers in World Champs medal charge

A handful of SA swimmers could be chasing podium places.

South Africa’s top swimmers will be looking to flaunt their form in the build-up to this year’s Paris Olympics when they take on the global elite at the World Aquatics Championships in Doha next week.

Veteran butterfly star Chad le Clos will lead the 12-member national squad when competition gets underway in the pool in the Qatari capital on Sunday.

It has been five years since Le Clos stepped on the podium at the global long-course showpiece, but he displayed good form by securing two gold medals at the World Short-Course Championships in 2022, and the versatile 31-year-old swimmer will be eager to put up a fight against his younger opponents.

He will be joined by a group of promising young swimmers who will be hoping to make a splash at the highest level of the sport, including teenager Pieter Coetze and 20-year-old rising stars Lara van Niekerk and Matthew Sates.

Backstroke prospect Coetze is a former world junior champion, breaststroke specialist Van Niekerk is a former World Championships bronze medallist, and Sates is a short-course world champion in the 200m individual medley, and they will all be gunning for medals.

Preparing for Paris

With the World Championships being held much earlier than usual in the year, as global governing body Fina catches up on events which could not be held during the Covid pandemic, the participants have had to take a different approach to their season.

Van Niekerk, however, said she hadn’t been bothered much by the unusual structure of the 2024 campaign.

“Although this is very early in the season, we have known about it for a while and so started making adjustments after worlds last year already,” Van Niekerk said.

“I love racing and both my coach and I thought it would be great preparation for Paris, and it will help us see what needs to be tweaked leading up to the Games (in July).”

Other members of the SA team competing at the eight-day World Championships gala include Commonwealth Games silver medallist Erin Gallagher and Olympic semi-finalist Emma Chelius.