Swimming / 31 December 2018, 11:40am / Ockert de Villiers
South African swimming has in recent years been kept afloat by Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh but in 2018 a new star was born in Tatjana Schoenmaker.
We selected the top-five highlights in South African swimming in 2018:
Le Clos rewrites Commonwealth history books
The four-time Olympic medallist won nearly half of the South African swimming team’s medals at Gold Coast Commonwealth Games in April.
The London 2012 Olympic champion bowed out of the Games as the most decorated swimmer adding five medals to his 12 from Delhi 2010 and Glasgow 2014.
He made history becoming the first man to win the butterfly treble bagging the gold over the 50m, 100m, and 200m distances.
Le Clos was deservedly named Fina’s male swimmer of the year following more sparkling performances at the World Short-Course Swimming Championships in Hangzhou, China earlier this month.
He won four individual medals including the 100m butterfly gold medal at the championships.
The 26-year-old claimed a fourth consecutive 100m butterfly title beating rising American star Caeleb Dressel while also clinching the 50m and 200m butterfly and 100m freestyle silver medals.
Van der Burgh’s classy farewell
The South African swimming legend hung up his goggles after more than a decade of stepping onto podiums at major international galas.
Van der Burgh drew the curtain on his final Commonwealth Games in style winning his third consecutive 50m breaststroke gold medal beating world record-holder Adam Peaty.
He also won the 100m breaststroke bronze medal was also a member of the 4x100m medley relay quartet which included Calvyn Justus, Le Clos and Brad Tandy that finished third in the final.
The Pretoria-born swimmer brought his career to a spectacular close at the Swimming World Short-Course Championships bowing out as a double world champion.
Van der Burgh raced to both the 50m and 100m breaststroke titles in a new championship record times.
Schoenmaker emerge as queen of the pool
Schoenmaker announced herself on the international scene by becoming the first able-bodied female swimmer since Joan Harrison at the Vancouver 1954 to win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games.
The 20-year-old swimmer raised the bar winning the 100-200m breaststroke double gold setting national records in both events while also lowering the national mark in the 50m event.
Schoenmaker smashed the African 200m breaststroke record to open her account becoming the first female swimmer since Delhi 2010 to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games when she hit the wall in a time of 2:22.02.
She chopped more than a second off Suzaan van Bijon’s continental record she set at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
The Pretoria-based swimmer added the 100m breaststroke gold medal smashing Penny Heyns’ South African and African record clocking 1:06.42.
Schoenmaker also broke Heyns’ South African 50m breaststroke record from 1999 chopping 0.01 off the previous mark in the final with a time of 30.82 to finish fourth.
Splash-and-dash king Brad Tandy
Tandy first showed his potential at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games where he was the only other swimmer other than Le Clos and Van der Burgh to make it into a final finishing sixth in the 50m freestyle.
He won South Africa’s first 50m freestyle medal since swimming legend Roland Schoeman’s silver from Delhi 2010 finishing second behind Commonwealth record-holder Ben Proud of England.
Tandy added more silverware to his growing list of accolades winning the 50m freestyle bronze medal at the World Short-Course Swimming Championships.
The future looks bright
The Youth Olympic Games in Buenos Aires provided another silver lining when Michael Houlie became the country’s first swimmer of colour to win a gold medal at a major global multi-sport event.
To add to the occasion Duné Coetzee won the 200m butterfly silver to became the first South African female to win a medal in the pool at the Youth Olympics.
Houlie won the 50m breaststroke gold medal while he also lowered the South African age-group records in both the 50m and the 100m breaststroke at the Youth Games.
He had to be content with the fifth place in the 100m breaststroke final despite going into the race as the overwhelming favourite.