Jessica Pengelly

Jessica Pengelly was born in July 1991, and hails from Edenvale, east of Johannesburg, although she now lives in Western Australia. She swam at the University of Stellenbosch Maties SC under coach Santa van Jaarsveld. She swam for South Africa at the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, after winning both the 200 and 400 IM at the South African championships.

Pengelly also set two South African records in the freestyle relays at the 2008 FINA World Short Course Championships in Manchester, England, and at the 2011 Summer Universiade in Shenzhen, China.

After emigrating to Australia in 2010 she represented that country at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow.

Maties Swimming Club coach Santa van Jaarsveld with Jessica Pengelly

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Pengelly at Maties

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Pengelly Notches South African Record in 400 IM

30 September 2007 

After posting a strong preliminary time of 4:46.40, Jessica came back during the evening session of the South African Short Course Championships to dispose of the South African record in the 400 IM. Pengelly clocked a time of 4:37.41 to best the previous standard of 4:39.61 set by Mandy Loots on Nov. 21, 2004.

At the 2008 South African Championships came to a close at the meet held in Durban, Jessica had crushed her national record in the women's 400 IM with a time of 4:41.35. That performance beat her record 4:41.94 set in February.

In April 2009 Pengelly broke the drought of no World Championship qualifying times among the women with an outstanding performance in the 200m breaststroke on the third day of the National Swimming Champs at the Kings Park pool in Durban .

The Capetonian, in her matric year and “taking it easier this year” according to coach Santa van Jaarsveld, certainly looked determined for success. Pengelly started her evening off with a 200m freestyle semi- final where she clocked a fast 2:03,89 to earn the third spot in the final tonight, and with just one event to rest, tackled the 200m breaststroke semi-final.

Pengelly picked up the pace significantly on the final length to clock the first World Champs QT for the women, touching in 2:28,65.

South Africa's Suzaan Van Biljon (C), her teammate Jessica Pengelly (L) and Algerian Lydia Yefsah poses with their medals on the podium, 13 July 2007 after the Women's Swimming 200m Breast-stroke final event at the 9th All Africa Games in Algiers. 

Triple Qualification Joy for Pengelly

August 19th, 2012


Jessica Pengelly led the way for women swimmers the South Africa Short Course Championships in Pietermaritzburg, setting A Qualification times in three events, to secure her place in the South African team for the FINA World Championships in Turkey in December.

Pengelly Headlines Short Course Champs Again

August 18th, 2012


Jessica Pengelly is making international waves at the SA National Short Course Champs in Pietermaritzburg, booking her second FINA Turkey ticket in the 800m freestyle on Friday. Saturday’s heats begin at 9:30 with finals starting at 4pm

Maree Stars in Perth

January 22nd, 2013


Coach impressed as Trudi Maree leads a youthful SA medals campaign at the recent BHP Billiton Aquatic Super Series in Perth, Australia

Top Swimmers Qualify for Turkey

 August 17th, 2012

Day 1 of the SA National Short Course Championship in Pietermaritzburg saw FINA World Championships qualifying times from Jessica Pengelly, Kathryn Meaklim, Karin Prinsloo and Jessica Ashley-Cooper.

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Home run for global swimmer

22 Jun 2014

Glasgow-bound: Former South African swimmer Jessica Pengelly, now calls Western Australia home.

THE Glasgow Commonwealth Games will be a homecoming of sorts for West Australian swimmer Jessica Pengelly.

The 22-year-old South African-born-and-raised Olympian, who was granted Australian citizenship at the end of last year, has strong ties with Scotland.

Her matriarchal roots are in Edinburgh and the entire family – mum Julia, dad Don ( a pilot with South African Airways) and sister Donella – will be travelling to watch her swim at the July 23-August 3 Games.

“My mum was born in Edinburgh and my granny moved there and passed away there when I was in year 1,” she said. “Mum is really looking forward to going back. It is quite special.”

One of five West Australians in the Commonwealth Games team alongside Sally Hunter, Katherine Downie, Madeleine Scott and Tommaso D’Orsogna, Pengelly is back on track for a personal best in the 400m individual medley after recovering from major shoulder surgery.

PERTH- BASED Olympic swimmer Jessica Pengelly faced one of the biggest decisions of her life when she had shoulder surgery in February last year.

The youngest member of the South African team at the Beijing Olympics was forced to endure a two-month rest to repair damaged subscapularis (rotator cuff) and bicep tendons.

Raised in Somerset West, Cape Town, just outside the wine region of Stellenbosch, she moved to Perth at the beginning of 2010 after completing Year 12 but was still swimming for South Africa by the time she needed the surgery.

“During that period I was out of the water, I looked at things and reassessed where I was going with my swimming career and my future,” she said.

“We were due for citizenship and I feel more Australian now than South African.

“This is my home now and I want to represent the place where I am now living.”

Pengelly got her citizenship at the end of last year and is one of five West Australians, alongside Sally Hunter, Katherine Downie, Madeleine Scott and Tommaso D’Orsogna, headed to the Glasgow Commonwealth Games in July.

The 22-year-old is back on course for a personal best in the 400m individual medley as she eyes the 4:41.04 she swam at Beijing as a 17-year-old, despite inferior training facilities in South Africa. She often trained in 25m pools with no starting blocks and in cold, murky water.

“It was pretty hard (training in South Africa). The heating systems broke down in winter, I was sometimes training in 19C (the ideal temperature is 25-28C),” she said.

 “But I got the work done and that is just part of my history now.”

She described her citizenship ceremony as “really special” and still can’t believe she is a member of the Western Australian Institute of Sport and now Australian team.

“Challenge Stadium is an amazing facility,” she said. “We are lucky to have something like this in Perth.

“Since we moved here, I have always admired WAIS athletes and Australian swimmers and to be part of the team now is incredible.

“Sometimes I think wow, I am part of the Australian swimming team, which has such a great history.”

Pengelly began her recovery from surgery under the coaching of Ian Mills and is now working with Michael Palfray, who also guides Eamon Sullivan. Ironically, Sullivan been forced out of the Glasgow team with a shoulder injury.

Pengelly qualified for Glasgow at the national titles in Brisbane in April where she finished third in the IM in 4:44.32, her fastest time so far in Australia.

“I have been working with Mick since the end of last year and he has been amazing for me,” Pengelly said.

“I put my head down and we have just taken it step by step the entire way. Evey time I raced I just wanted to go faster.

“By the time nationals came it was clear that I could make the Commonwealth Games team.

“I was fortunate that I didn’t have any problems along the way with my shoulder.”

A recent training camp in Thanyapura, Phuket, with a group of WAIS swimmers has Pengelly on track for a PB in Scotland.

“It was a chance to get away from the cold and training in the humidity, which is a different level of fatigue and trying to push through that training in that heat gave us an opportunity to have another level of fitness,” she said.

“I am hoping for a PB (In Glasgow) and it would be amazing if I make the final.”


Jessica Pengelly set for green and gold : Aussie style

April 13th, 2014

Jessica Pengelly looks around the ageing facilities at Challenge Stadium and feels lucky to be there.

The 22-year-old was the youngest member of South Africa’s swim team at the 2008 Beijing Olympics, but was still training at the time in a 25m pool with no starting blocks and water so murky that she could not see the bottom.

Today she is an Australian citizen living in Perth and thrilled to this month be named Western Australia’s only rookie swimmer to make the Commonwealth Games squad bound for Glasgow in July.

Pengelly has found her mojo over the past six months training under Olympian Eamon Sullivan’s coach Michael Palfrey at a venue she rates as “amazing” compared with anything in South Africa.

“There’s no place in South Africa that would have three 50m pools in one small area,” she said.

“There’s probably one good 50m pool in one city in the country, so this facility is amazing. I’m really fortunate to be training here.”

Pengelly showed enormous promise in setting a South African record in the 200m individual medley at her first Olympics, but felt she needed to spread her wings to develop her swimming and her future outside the sport.

She moved to Perth with her family in 2010 after finishing Year 12 and, despite being used to travelling thanks to her father’s work as a South African Airways pilot, admitted the shift had first proved difficult.

“The first year was a bit difficult with settling down, but every year’s become better,” she said. “At the end of last year I think I’ve been my happiest. It feels like my home now.”

Six West Australians have made Australia’s 59-strong swimming team for the Games.

Pengelly joins Sullivan, Olympian Sally Hunter and Perth trio Tommaso D’Orsogna, Katherine Downie and Madeleine Scott in the squad.

Dale Miller | The West Australian