#TuksSwimming: Pieter Coetzé with a podium finish at the 2024 World Aquatics Champs

Posted on February 22, 2024

Satchel Paige, a USA professional baseball pitcher, famously once said, "Never let your head hang down. Never give up, and sit down and grieve. Find another way."

It is unlikely that Pieter Coetzé would know who Paige is or even know of the quote. At the 2024 World Aquatics Championships in Doha, Qatar,  Coetzé won bronze in the 200m-backstroke final and epitomized Paige's words after his heroic performance. 

Coetzé's coach, Rocco Meiring, ascribed his protege's performance to having a winning mindset... big-match temperament.

"Pieter was utterly disappointed with his fifth-place finish in the 100m-backstroke final. It left him with something to prove that he was good enough to swim against the best. Pieter knew he could not dwell on the outcome of the 100m backstroke. What happened, happened. He had to let go of his pent-up anger and disappointment. And he did so. What more can a coach ask for? I am lucky to coach a swimmer like Pieter."

His sister, Jana, is a big fan of her brother's pool heroics.

"He deserved to win a medal. It is easy to self-destruct and feel sorry for yourself if a race at a championship gala does not play out as planned. Pieter did not let it get to him. That is what I admire about him.

"Pieter is in the sport for the right reasons. To him, it is not only about winning medals. Often, at galas, he would give away his medal to younger swimmers. I am lucky to have one of his Commonwealth Games medals. It is only because I have asked early enough that he keeps one for me. 

"Pieter does what he does because he genuinely loves swimming. He is so confident in his abilities. The way he can get his body to glide so fast through the water borders, at times, on the absurd. Pieter lives for the 'burn'.

"As his sister, I will never be surprised about his achievements as I know what he is capable of. Will I cry every time I see him on the podium? The answer is yes. But it will be tears of joy."

Few who watched the race would have tipped Coetzé to win a medal because, after 150 metres, he was in eighth place. But then he started to up his pace. Powering into the third spot. It is possibly one of the best comebacks by a South African swimmer at a World Champs. The Tuks swimmer is the only South African to have medalled so far. 

Hugo Gonzales of Spain, won gold in the 200m-backstroke swimming at 1:55.30, and Switzerland's Roman Gonzales Roman Mityukov silver in 1:55.40. Coetzé finished in 1:55.99 clinching bronze. 

When listening to Coetzé, it is hard to believe he is only turning 20 in May. He has got an old head on young shoulders. He is forever looking for ways to be faster. The 200m-backstroke semifinals is a good example. He nearly missed out on swimming the final by finishing fifth in the semifinal. Luckily, his time of 1:57.07 was fast enough to ensure he went through to the last eight. 

"I tried something new by going out a little bit faster. The time is now to experiment a bit, to see what works and doesn't work for me," the Tuks swimmer said. 

- Author Wilhelm De Swardt

Copyright © University of Pretoria 2024. All rights reserved.

FAQ's Email Us Virtual Campus Share Cookie Preferences