Lara van Niekerk Finds Early Form at Durban Grand Prix

Double Commonwealth Games champion Lara van Niekerk wasted no time in getting a World Championship and Olympic qualifying mark in the bag at the second Grand Prix Meet of the year in Durban. Photo: Gaby Benjamin

Double Commonwealth Games champion Lara van Niekerk wasted no time in getting a World Championship and Olympic qualifying mark in the bag at the second Grand Prix Meet of the year in Durban.

The 19-year-old from Pretoria swam 1:06.65 in the heats of the 100m breaststroke on Friday, 3 March 2023, to dip under the A qualifying time for both the World Championships in Japan this July and next year’s Paris Olympics – although she’ll need to swim the time again at the SA National Championships to officially qualify.

With the finals of the meet being contested in the morning rather than the evening, van Niekerk went slightly slower on Saturday but was still well ahead of the pack, taking the victory in 1:07.88.

Fellow Commonwealth medallist Kaylene Corbett was second in a World Championships B qualifying time of 1:08.89, but her main focus will be on the 200m breaststroke – an event in which she reached the Olympic final in 2021.

“For me, this is a train-through meet so anything I’m doing right now is incredibly good for me in comparison to training and how hard we’ve trained up until today, so I’m having fun and enjoying the racing. That’s the important part about these Grand Prix meets,” said Corbett afterwards.

“It’s world champs and World Student Games this year so two big competitions that we’re all excited for… we’re just celebrating all the small victories in our training at the moment.”

“And Lara swimming an Olympic A qualifying time now already is just incredible,” she added.

Several swimmers also recorded World Championships B qualifying times. Among them were Commonwealth Games silver medallist Erin Gallagher, Emma Chelius, Milla Drakopoulos, Rebecca Meder, and Hannah Pearse.

Gallagher claimed victory in the 100m butterfly in 59.59 seconds and then pushed Emma Chelius all the way in the 50m freestyle. Chelius just edged ahead to win in 25.57 with Gallagher second in 25.73.

Meder took top honours in the 200m individual medley (2:13.94) and 200m freestyle (2:00.92) – achieving B qualifying times in both – while 16-year-old Drakopoulos did the same in the 50m backstroke (29.16) and Pearse in the 200m backstroke (2:14.12) finishing over seven seconds clear of the chasing pack.

Grand Prix action concludes at the Kings Park Swimming Pool in Durban on Sunday.

 

Photo 1 Caption: Double Commonwealth Games champion Lara van Niekerk wasted no time in getting a World Championship and Olympic qualifying mark in the bag at the second Grand Prix Meet of the year in Durban. Photo: Gaby Benjamin

With editing by gsport

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