Durban-based Olympic swimming star Kathryn Meaklim enhanced her reputation as one of the leading female swimmers on the national aquatics scene by notching up seven gold-medal-winning performances at the four-day Telkom SA Short Course Championships that ended at the Delville Swimming Pool, in Germiston, on Sunday.
Representing Pisces ASC, Meaklim, 19, powered her way to gold in the 200m individual medley in 2min 12.65sec, beating Cape Town Olympic star Jessica Pengelly (2:12.99), before clocking 2:01.56 to take the 200m freestyle title.
Earlier, Meaklim triumphed in the 200m butterfly (2:11.74), 400m individual medley (4:41.53), the 800m freestyle (8:57.63), the 200m breaststroke (2:28.56) and the 400m freestyle (4:12.42). Roland Schoeman's 50m freestyle world record of 20.64sec was the undoubted highlight of the championships, while African bests set by Schoeman in the 50m butterfly (22.74), Cameron van der Burgh in the 50m breaststroke (26.61), and Van der Burgh, Darren Murray, Marius Hattingh and Gregor Widmer, under the guise of TuksSwimming NT in the 4x100m medley relay (3:39.99), gave swimming enthusiasts much to cheer about yesterday.
Add to this the fine form shown by triple gold medallist Chanelle van Wyk, who equalled the national 50m backstroke record of 28.00 held by Charlene Wittstock, and also made it to the top of the medal podium in the 50m freestyle (25.84) and 100m backstroke (1:00.75), and fans can look forward to some fast times by South Africans at the Swimming World Cup to be held in Durban on October 17 and 18.
In the multidisability programme, Central Gauteng's Craig Groenewald secured a world record in the 200m individual medley, finishing in 2:21.96, to add to his gold medal won in the 100m freestyle earlier in the day (56.28).
Groenewald was in fine form at the short-course showpiece, collecting a total of 10 gold medals.
South Africa's Kathryn Meaklim smashed the distance medley world record with a time of 4:22.88. That swim wiped out the 4:25.06 set by Mireia Belmonte Garcia back in December of 2008.
Here are the comparative splits: Meaklim: 28.84, 1:01.68 (32.84), 1:36.73 (35.05), 2:10.57 (33.84), 2:46.62 (36.05), 3:22.75 (36.13), 3:53.48 (30.73), 4:22.88 (29.40) Belmonte Garcia: 29.60, 1:02.28 (32.68), 1:36.63 (34.35), 2:10.12 (33.49), 2:46.86 (36.74), 3:24.51 (37.65), 3:55.13 (30.62), 4:25.06 (29.93)
Notably, Meaklim also crushed Belmonte Garcia's World Cup record of 4:26.40 set in Stockholm.
Russia's Svetlana Karpeeva (4:38.35) and Singapore's Ting Ting Koh (4:54.81) completed the top three.
Kathryn Meaklim, a 22-year-old from Kloof, has just qualified for the Olympics after recording A-standard times at the SA Swimming Championships and Olympic Trials in Durban on Monday night.
How long have you been interested in swimming? Since I was very young: 11 or 12 years old. It’s been one of my dreams for a long time. At 13 I went abroad to compete, so for almost nine years now I’ve been competing. You meet so many awesome people and we all love swimming, and travelling.
What events do you compete in? I swim the 200m and 400m individual medley, which is all strokes combined. There’s a qualifying time you have to beat, which I managed last month in the British nationals. I just missed it in the 200m medley, so am a bit unhappy about that.
Why the medley? I chose the medley because I wasn’t particularly brilliant at one stroke! I decided to do the medley because it’s always changing, and I enjoy changing strokes, it’s a lot more interesting than one stroke.
Why did you come to London to train? Mainly for the Olympic Pool. The squad wanted to check it out, and to get used to it and the feel of the pool, the atmosphere. The surroundings are awesome.
What did you think of the Olympic park? Obviously the site isn’t finished yet, but the Olympic pool is awesome, and English people love sport so much so the atmosphere is going to be insane. I know all the South Africans are keen to come over here and do our country proud as well.
How much training are you doing at the moment? We train anywhere from three to five hours a day, usually for about two and a half hours in the pool, and then an hour and a half of land training a day. My squad don’t train on Sundays.
But at the moment we’re preparing for our nationals from 16 to 22 April, and the South African rules state we have to qualify in 400m there. At the end of the day if you don’t do the nationals, you’re not going to the Olympics. You also have to do the qualifying time twice.
Do you stick to a special diet? I’m supposed to! With the amount of exercise we do, you can eat quite a lot and not worry about weight. I eat quite a lot, I love food! Some people follow a strict diet, but when you’re training really hard and your body wants something, I think you should give it what it wants.
Where are your favourite places for competing? I get to see a lot of places: America and Rio were awesome. Meets in Australia were great because they love swimming so much, so it’s one of my favourite places to compete.
What are your plans for the next few months until the Olympics? There are our SA Nationals in April, then Europe for some meets, then the SA team will be based in Monaco until the Olympics.
In a few months we’ll be looking to do some sightseeing, all the castles and stuff. I mainly like to shop; we’ve been eyeing up the big shopping centre opposite the Olympic site!
Maybe when we get back to London, a bit of shopping will be nice!