Matthew Sates is aiming for some success in the short course competition during the FINA Swimming World Cup season after a difficult 2022 long course season.
Prior to the FINA World Swimming Cup 2021 last year, Matthew Sates of South Africa was barely a household name. He finished 14th in the 200m IM semi-finals at the Tokyo Olympics as an 18-year-old and was 32nd in the 100m butterfly. The rookie had a decent debut, but he wasn’t drawing attention or making news.
Matthew Sates, though, made his imprint on the swimming world at the opening FINA Swimming World Cup stop in Berlin in October. Matthew Sates set a new short-course junior world record in the 200 IM on the first day of competition in the German capital with a time of 1:51.45. On the second day, he outperformed seasoned competitors Kyle Chalmers and Danas Rapsys in the 200-meter freestyle with an unquestionably more remarkable swim of 1:40.65, setting his second consecutive world junior record. Many were alerted by it and enquired, “Who is this guy?”
People who just knew him as the person who advanced to the semi-finals in Tokyo were shocked by it, but Matthew Sates wasn’t as surprised.
In a recent interview with FINA, Matthew Sates stated, “I won’t claim (my performances at the 2021 World Cup were a complete surprise as I had been training well and anticipated that I could post some excellent times). However, I must admit that my results exceeded my expectations and I was extremely pleased with them.
Matthew Sates was a rising sports star in South Africa, which has already produced world record holders Penny Heyns and Roland Schoeman as well as Olympic champions Chad Le Clos and Tatjana Schoenmaker.
It seemed South Africa had discovered their next superstar almost immediately following the Tokyo Olympics. He just kept moving forward.
His time of 3:37.92 at the second World Cup stop in Budapest, where he defeated Olympic finalist Felix Auboeck and Rapsys, set a new junior world record in the 400-meter freestyle. Matthew Sates won a total of 14 events throughout the four visits of the Swimming World Cup last year, ranging from the 200 and 400 freestyles to all three individual medleys. Matthew Sates became a major figure in the sport and helped him win the Swimming World Cup overall.
Matthew Sates told FINA, “I think the entire event was a pivotal moment and a tremendous learning curve. “It gave me the confidence boost of knowing I could compete against the best in the world, but it also demonstrated how difficult it can be to go from meet to meet and perform at that level regularly.”
Following his performances in the Swimming World Cup, Matthew Sates relocated to the United States to train at the University of Georgia under the tutelage of legendary coach Jack Bauerle. There, he won the NCAA 500 freestyle championship in the short course yards competition, which was open to only Americans. If the American audience had any doubts about him previously, they undoubtedly changed their minds after witnessing him compete in the NCAA, where, for the fourth time, he challenged the fastest 500-yard freestyle time in recorded history.
His sponsor P2Life, who noticed that Sates’ greatest timings were on pace with where Phelps was in his career at the same age, has drawn analogies between him and the one and only Michael Phelps based on his accomplishments. Whether the comparison was fair or not, it adds added significance and raises expectations for individuals who may not have previously known about States.
Matthew Sates was given the chance to compete during a busy summer of long course racing in 2022, with options to compete at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham and the 19th FINA World Championships in Budapest. Based on his accomplishments at the Mare Nostrum tour in May, when he was 4:11 in the 400 IM, 1:57 in the 200 IM, and 1:45 in the 200 freestyle, all of which placed him top ten in the world going into the FINA World Championships, good things appeared to be in store for him.
Sates competed in the 200 free, 200 IM, and 400 IM at Budapest. Even while they were better than they had been at the Olympics, his performances fell short of what he had achieved weeks before in the Mare Nostrum. After clocking a semifinal time of 1:57 in the 200m IM, he qualified for his first major final and finished in eighth place. He also finished 11th in the 400m IM (4:14) and 12th in the 200m freestyle (1:46).
He competed in three finals at the Commonwealth Games, placing fourth in the 400 IM (4:16), sixth in the 200 m free (1:47), and seventh in the 400 m free (4:07). (3:49).
A poor long course summer was a relative punch in the stomach and a difficult thing to take after a Swimming World Cup series and a brief NCAA season where he was so dominant nearly every time he hit the pool.
In terms of times and placings, Sates claimed that the World Championships and the Commonwealth Games were both not excellent meets for her. But they’ve also taught me that resilience is essential for being a professional athlete, which has improved my understanding of what I need to do.
Redemption at the Swimming World Cup
Sates, who is still only 19 years old, is back in training with coach Wayne Riddin in Pietermaritzburg ahead of the 20th FINA World Championships in Fukuoka (JPN) and maybe a second trip to the Olympics in Paris in 2024. Looking ahead to this month, he has the adaptability to defend his Swimming World Cup overall title from last year, but his must-see event for Berlin, Toronto, and Indianapolis remains unknown.
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