Bloemfontein’s golden boy back on Tuesday

Zane Waddell PHOTO: AP

The newly crowned 50m backstroke world champion, Zane Waddell, will be back in Bloemfontein on Tuesday.

The 21-year-old, who studies in the USA, stunned the swimming world on Sunday by winning the 50m backstroke in 24.43 sec at the FINA Swimming World Championships in Gwangju, South Korea.

Earlier in the month, Waddell won the 50m gold at the World University Games in Napoli, Italy, in a time of 24.48 sec.

His former coach, Simon Gray, who also coached Ryk Neethling, told Bloemfontein Courant that Waddell was at a loss for words after his achievement.

“I’m over the moon, it’s amazing, I never expected it, but after the semi-finals, I thought that he would be in third or fourth. Beating all those world-class swimmers and being number-one in the world is amazing.

“As his mother came around last night, he was still shocked and he couldn’t even talk about his race because he was in another world. It’s all the shock of winning that race.

“I don’t think that he expected it as much as we did, but he did it.”

The next mission for Waddell will be to qualify for the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan.

Gray added that although the win doesn’t mean he has qualified for Tokyo 2020, they will be targeting the 50 and 100m backstrokes.

“He is quite excited and as I said, I cannot wait to speak to him and see what he plans to do. His 100m backstroke is very good as well, and he beat the three medallists in the 100m backstroke in the 50m backstroke on Sunday.

“We are going to have to assess how we attack the 100m backstroke next year.”

While Waddell was born in Bloemfontein and attended Grey College, he no longer represents the Free State. When he’s not swimming for the University of Alabama, he swims under the banner of KwaZulu-Natal and now swims for Seagulls under Graham Hill.

Waddell will be in Bloemfontein until 17 August before returning to the Crimson Tide.