After one semester at Georgia, South Africa Matt Sates, who owns a trio of World Junior Records, has decided to end his very short NCAA career. Sates became a pro this morning, signing with the Newton agency, and will return to his hometown of Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, to practice. Sates first arrived at the University of Georgia in the US in January and spent about 3 months with the Bulldogs before making that decision.
In Pietermaritzburg, Sates will be reunited with his longtime mentor, Wayde Riddin, who previously served as South Africa’s head coach from 1999-2000. According to a report by the Sunday Times, an independent outlet in South Africa, Sates wants to focus on long-distance swimming, with reference to the fact that basically all its recent success has come in either Short Track Meters or Yard races. He holds the World Junior Records in the SCM 200 free, 400 free and 200 IM.
Sates has just finished the South African Championships in Gqeberha, where he won titles in the 100 free, 200 free, 400 free and 200 IM. He qualified for both the World Championships and Commonwealth Games this summer in both the 200 free and 200 IM.
“I love swimming and for as long as I can remember, I have dreamed of competing as a professional on the world’s biggest stage,” Sates said in a statement on his decision.
Although he ended up participating in only a handful of events at UGA, Sates made his mark on the NCAA and won the 500 title at the NCAA Championships last month with a 4: 06.61, which stands as the 3rd fastest 500 free in history. He also finished 3rd in the 200 free, with a 1: 30.72. Although he missed the final round of the 200 fly, Sates still managed to score 36 points, a highly impressive score for a freshman, especially one who only got his first taste of yard racing.
“I would not be where I am without [Riddin]. I also want to thank everyone at the University of Georgia… as well as my teammates, who gave me the confidence to take this step, ”Sates told the Sunday Times. The report also notes that from 2008 to 2020, South Africa won 20 Olympic medals, and none of those athletes participated in the NCAA in the United States. In 2004, however, 3 of the 4 members of South Africa’s gold medal who won and set the World Record for men 4 × 100 freestyle, were NCAA athletes.