Cape Town — Lara van Niekerk, the new 100m breaststroke queen! The 19-year-old proved that she is ready to take on Tatjana Schoenmaker at the Paris Olympics by clinching the 100m breaststroke gold medal at the Commonwealth Games on Tuesday.
Van Niekerk had already displayed her prowess by clinching the 50m breaststroke title at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre in Birmingham.
But 200m breaststroke world record-holder and Olympic champion Schoenmaker flexed her muscles in the 200m race a few days ago to grab the gold medal in that event.
So, it shaped up as a fairytale showdown in the 100m, where Schoenmaker had secured a silver medal in last year’s Tokyo Olympics.
The 25-year-old made a great start, edging into an early lead. But Van Niekerk roared up in the second 25 metres and was ahead by a huge 0.66-second margin at the turn.
Schoenmaker tried hard to get back into the race for gold, but was unable to make an impression on her teenaged compatriot.
Van Niekerk touched the wall first in a time of 1:05.47, followed by Schoenmaker in 1:06.68 – a gap of 1.21 seconds.
Chelsea Hodges of Australia finished third in 1:07.05, with a third South African, Kaylene Corbett, ending seventh in 1:07.62.
In the men’s 200m backstroke final, Pieter Coetze gave it all he had and claimed a bronze medal.
The tall South African was in sixth position at the final turn, but powered his way into third spot in a time of 1:56.77, trailing champion Brodie Williams of England (1:56.40), who just held off silver medallist Bradley Woodward of Australia (1:56.41).
Earlier yesterday, the lawn bowls women’s fours team clinched a silver medal in their final at Victoria Park.
Johanna Snyman, Esme Kruger, Bridgit Calitz and Thabelo Muvhango went down 17-10 to India in the decider, but nevertheless, they secured SA’s first bowls medal in Birmingham.
It was a thrilling final, with the scores locked at 8-8 and then 10-10.
But after the 13th End, India – comprising of Lovely Choubey, Rupa Rani Tirkey, Pinki and Nayanmoni Saikia – took a 12-10 lead, which they extended to 15-10 after End 14, finishing with a 17-10 advantage following End 15.