RABAT – There are quite a few language barriers in Morocco for those who don’t speak French and Arabic but, at the Mohamed V Olympic Pool in Casablanca, the spectators are becoming familiar with South Africa’s national anthem at the African Games.
On Friday night Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika blared out another five times as Team SA picked up five golds and five silvers to take their medals tally in the water to 34 after three nights of swimming, with Saturday’s closing session to come.
It’s been a stellar performance from Team SA who have now claimed 16 gold, 12 silver and six bronze medals in the pool. One of the stars of the show has been Kaylene Corbett, who claimed her third individual gold medal when taking the women’s 200m breaststroke.
That gave her a clean sweep of the breaststroke golds and in all three races (50, 100 and 200m) she was followed to the wall by her teammate and friend, Christin Mundell. The 17-year-old has had a rich tournament and has taken all three breaststroke silvers as well as the 200 and 400m freestyle silvers for a personal tally of five.
Both the 20-year-old Corbett and Mundell are underlining the depth in women’s breaststroke, given that Tatjana Schoenmaker, who is a potential Tokyo 2020 gold medallist, is not here in Morocco.
Corbett led from start to finish to win her third gold in 2min 29.23sec and was understandably elated afterwards. ‘I planned to swim as fast as I can and get the medal tally up for South Africa,’ she said.
"Getting three golds is something I can’t explain, it was incredible to hear the national anthem so many times and in all three races Christin went out hard and we ended up getting the golds and silvers for SA. It was insane to hug a teammate on the podium, very exciting."
Corbett acknowledged the depth of women’s breaststroke swimming when she said: "Us breaststroking girls are in a positive mental state. We are constantly motivating one another and training together with Rocco Meiring in Pretoria. Rocco is the heart and soul of all three of us and the three of us are representing the country."
In having to reflect on her performances here in Casablanca, Corbett reckoned that the 200m was the one gold she needed. "It is my main event, so I was hoping for it the most. I train for it every day, but the 50 came as a surprise as I’m not very good at it and in the 100 I just did my best."
Elsewhere on the night, Erin Gallagher won her second individual gold when taking the women’s 50m backstroke in 29.05 – and the 20-year-old was the one who started the Team SA gold rush in the pool on Wednesday night.
Earlier in the evening, she’d picked up silver in the 100m butterfly, after being outstayed down the stretch having turned first at 50m. She touched in 59.34 for second in a fast race that delivered a Games record.
Alaric Basson, who had won the men’s 100m breaststroke, was another to double up when he won the 200m in 2:14.21. ‘This is my preferred event but it was tougher than I thought. I had to dig deep but did that to pull through for the gold.’
The two other golds went to Ryan Coetzee who claimed the men’s 100m butterfly title in 53.70 after leading all the way and holding off teammate Alard Basson in 53.88.
And finally in terms of gold, Team SA’s Mixed 4x100m freestyle combination of Doug Erasmus, Coetzee, Emma Chelius and Gallagher came home ahead of their rivals.
In the opening event, Egyptian Hania Moro won gold in the women’s 400m freestyle, but only after having to fight off the two South African challengers in Jessica Whelan and Mundell.
Whelan took the field through 150m in the lead before Moro stuck her neck in front. Then, at the 250m wall, Whelan regained the lead but Moro fought back to touch first with 100m to go.
That’s when Mundell loomed up on her inside, and with 50m left was only 0.50 behind, but the Egyptian was too strong down the stretch and touched first in 4:21.96, with Mundell claiming silver in 4:22.95.