Matt Sates Approaches SA Records in Barcelona, Beats Tom Dean in 200 Free


18-year old South African swimmer Matt Sates has continued his success in his first series of meets since announcing he was leaving the NCAA to turn pro.

The Barcelona stop of the Mare Nostrum Swim Series began on Wednesday, and so far, the swimming has been faster than at the previous stop in Monaco. That included Sates’ 4:11.58 in the 400 IM and 1:45.91 in the 200 free, both of which are new personal best times and just-missed the South African Records.

400 IM

The South African Record in the 400 IM was set at the 2013 US Open by Sebastien Rousseau, when he swam 4:11.11. He was 22 at the time.

Splits Comparison, Sates in Monaco vs. Barcelona:

Monaco Barcelona
Fly 56.42 56.53
Back 68.87 67.24
Breast 69.92 70.52
Free 58.33 57.29
Total 4:12.74 4:11.58

Sates’ drop of more than a second on Wednesday came from the backstroke and freestyle legs. While he gave some of that back on the breaststroke (perhaps suffering from his effort on backstroke, or perhaps to wind up for a big push at the end), his new strategy paid off with a drop of 1.16 seconds.

His best time before this series was just a 4:25.43, though after a 4:01.98 in short course meters at the FINA World Cup stop in Berlin last October, it was abundantly clear that he had a better swim than that in him.

In his one semester racing for the Georgia Bulldogs, Sates only swam the 400 yard IM once, touching in 3:41 at a “Last Chance” meet between the SEC and NCAA Championships. He wound up swimming the 200 free, which conflicted with the 400 IM in the event schedule, at the NCAA Championships instead, placing 3rd in 1:30.72.

He also didn’t swim the 400 IM at April’s South African National Championships. He was selected for South Africa’s World Championship roster in other events, and now with a FINA “A” cut, is eligible to add that race to his schedule in Budapest if he chooses. He is qualified to swim the 200 free, 200 IM, 100 free, and 400 free at those World Championships. The 400 IM conflicts with the 400 free on the final day of competition, which would be a near-impossible double.

Sates now ranks 9th in the world this season in that event.

2021-2022 LCM Men 400 IM

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200 Free

Sates finished the session with a 1:45.91 in the 200 free, and in the process beat out the defending Olympic Champion Thomas Dean.

Dean finished 2nd in 1:46.27, and both swimmers were faster than his 1:46.89 in prelims which was the former Meet Record.

Dean led the race most of the way, but Sates had a remarkable 26.58 closing 50 split to close the gap and grab the win. For comparison, only one swimmer, silver medalist Duncan Scott, closed faster than 26.58 at last summer’s Olympic Games, splitting 26.46 over his final 50.

Fast closing speed, and unique pacing, has become somewhat of a hallmark of Sates’: at the NCAA Championships, where he swam the third-fastest 500 freestyle in history, he had a very-fast closing 100 of 47.85, admitting after the race that he miscounted the event and probably had one more kick left in him.

Sates’ previous personal best was a 1:46.16 done in April at the South African Championships. He swam 1:46.69 in Monaco last week.

Dean at the Olympics Dean in Barcelona Sates in Barcelona
Sates’ Previous PB
50m 24.21 24.40 25.02 24.85
100m 26.25 26.97 26.84 26.97
150m 26.92 27.84 27.47 27.13
200m 26.84 27.06 26.58 27.20
Final Time 1:44.22 1:46.27 1:45.91 1:46.15

The South African Record in this event is a 1:45.20 done by Chad Le Clos at the 2016 Olympic Games.

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8 months ago

Under MP’s 1:45.99 17-18 NAG.

8 months ago

Even when Sates inevitably smashes 1:45.20, I’ll never forget that race from le Clos.

8 months ago

Sates did not swim the fastest 500 yard freestyle in history at NCAAs. Probably was the fastest final 100 in history though

Caeleb Remel Cultist
8 months ago

“… 400 free at those World Championships. Unlike at the Olympics, the 400 IM doesn’t conflict directly with any of those other races, though it is the same day as the 400 medley relay…”

, the men’s 400 IM does conflict with the 400 free on the first day.

The 400 medley relay conflicts with the women’s 400 IM on the last day.

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Last edited 8 months ago by Caeleb Remel Cultist
Reply to  Caeleb Remel Cultist
8 months ago

I want to make fun of you for such an extensive post, but I find myself wanting to applaud you.

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Braden Keith is the Editor-in-Chief and a co-founder/co-owner of He first got his feet wet by building The Swimmers' Circle beginning in January 2010, and now comes to SwimSwam to use that experience and help build a new leader in the sport of swimming. Aside from his life on the InterWet, …

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