African record for Gallagher on opening day of World Champs
Erin Gallagher kicked off the World Aquatics Championships in Doha, Qatar by setting a new African record in the 100m butterfly and booking a place in her first-ever world championships final.
The Pretoria-based swimmer blazed to the new continental mark in the morning heats, finishing in a time of 57.59 seconds, so qualifying third fastest for the evening semifinal where she finished third.
Gallagher’s semifinal time was a slightly slower 57.92 but it was quick enough to see her through to Monday night’s final.
The 25-year-old admitted afterwards: “I really didn’t expect to swim a best time and break the African record. That was a really big treat for me.
“Being the first race of the gala, with the nerves and breaking the ice, sometimes you can have a bit of a rusty swim and you realise what you need to work on, so to see that African record next to my time was a really big shock for me.”
Gallagher, who also held the previous record — set at the World Student Games in China last year — will contest the 100m butterfly final on Monday night and is also entered into the 50m butterfly as well as the 50 and 100m freestyle.
“I’m just looking forward to the rest of the week and seeing what it holds,” she said.
The other South African in action in the evening session on the opening day of action was veteran Chad le Clos who swam in the 50m butterfly semifinals.
Le Clos had booked his place in the semis by winning his morning heat in a time of 23.47 seconds.
Better known for the longer butterfly events, the 31-year-old finished eighth in his semifinal in a time of 23.68 and did not progress to the final.
“I was really, really happy with the 50 fly heats... it was very surprising. I didn’t expect to make it through, to be honest. I’m focusing more on the 100 fly this week and a bit of the 100 freestyle,” said Le Clos, also adding a shout-out to Gallagher.
“That was a big swim from Erin,” he said. “She’s come a long way so I’m very happy for her.”
Earlier in the day, Duné Coetzee finished 14th overall in the 400m freestyle heats in 4:12.03, so missing out on the final while Matthew Randle was 28th overall in the 100m breaststroke heats in 1:01.80.
“I’m pretty happy about the swim. It was a solid swim,” said Coetzee. “I would have liked to go a little bit faster but it was only one and a half seconds off my best so it was good for a morning swim.
“It was good to get the first one out of the way. You never really know where you’re at after the first day after the travelling and everything so it was good to get the nerves to calm down a little bit and then I have a day off now and the 200 freestyle the day after.
“I’m just trying to go as fast as I can and hopefully get a personal best time. The 200 freestyle is a fun race for me and I’m excited to see what I can do in that.”
Swimming action continues on Monday morning on what will be a busy day for the South African team with Milla Drakopoulos (100m backstroke), Pieter Coetzé (100m backstroke), Lara van Niekerk (100m breaststroke), Matt Sates (200m freestyle) and Stephanie Houtman (1500m freestyle) all in action. — Swimming SA
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