The swimming contingent of Team South Africa from the Commonwealth Games arrived to a heroes’ welcome at the O.R Tambo International airport after flying the country’s flag high in Birmingham. Among them were double gold medallist, Lara Van Niekerk, and teenage sensation, Pieter Coetze who won three medals.
The swimming team comprised of young swimmers who have set their sights on representing the country for many more years to come including at the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.
Family and friends were at the airport hours before the team landed in the country to welcome them. And when the team did finally arrive it was given just the celebration they deserved after doing so well in Birmingham. Van Niekerk, Coetze, Charl Du Toit, Erin Gallagher and the others were all happy with the reception they got.
“It is really nice, it is teammates that we swim with that are here family and friends, it’s amazing because even though swimming is like you swim your own race, everyone here gels well so it’s been a really good trip,” says Charl Du Toit, silver medalist.
” I felt so much loved from all the friends and my whole squad was here and they actually came from school to support me here. It feels like I make everyone really proud,” says lara Van Niekerk, double gold medalist.
Van Niekerk’s coach, who has been with her for more than a decade, believes doing well at the Games was a brilliant start of the 19-year old’s international career.
“She’s been training with me since she was eight years old so its eleven years of preparation basically. This was a good start to her international career, hopefully from here things can get better and better,” says Eugene Da Ponte, swimming coach.
Teenage sensation, Pieter Coetze competed at the last year’s Olympic Games although things didn’t go that well. But the 18-year old used the experience he gained in Tokyo to do well in Birmingham and will use every other opportunity to prepare himself for the next Olympic Games.
“The Olympics is the peak of everything this is just a stepping stone to the Olympics. Everything else from now will just be stepping stones. 2024 Olympics is the main focus,” says Coetze, three medal winner.
The swimmers won four golds, four silvers and three bronze medals contributing 11 medals in the 22 Team South Africa has so far won.