Sarah Poewe was born on March 3, 1983, in Cape Town, South Africa. In her early years, Poewe (pronounced "Perver") emerged as one of the world's most promising young swimmers. Sarah, whose mother is Jewish, began swimming at a young age when she accompanied her brother to his practices. She made her international debut at the Pan American Championships in 1997, at the age of 14. Since then, Poewe has become South Africa's second best breaststroker behind Penny Heyns, an Olympic champion and world record holder.
At the 1998 Junior Olympics in Moscow, Sarah was the voted the Best Female Swimmer. In 1999, Poewe won her first Pan Pacific medal, a bronze, in the 200-meter breaststroke. She also broke through at the Short Course World Championships, finishing sixth in the 100-meter breaststroke (1:08.41) and eighth in the 200-meter breaststroke (2:28.07). Sarah finished the year ranked in the top-ten in three different breaststroke events: the 50-meter (8th), 100-meter (10th), and 200-meter (3rd).
At the 2000 Short Course World Championships, Poewe finished first in the 50-meter breaststroke (30.66), and 100-meter breaststroke (1:06.21), and fifth in the 200-meter breaststroke (2:26.83).
At the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, the 17-year-old Poewe competed for the South African swimming team in three events. She reached the finals in the 100-meter breaststroke, and finished in fourth place (1:07.85), missing a medal by 0.30 seconds. Poewe also competed in the 200-meter breaststroke (2:25.72), finishing in sixth place, but only .37 seconds from a medal. Her 4x100-meter medley team finished in fifth place with a time of 4:05.15.
In 2001, Poewe won the South African National Championships in the 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 1:08.02 (four-and-a-half seconds ahead of the second place finisher); the time automatically qualified her for the World Championships. She said following the race: "I am so happy with it. It's my third best time ever. I had a good feeling this was going to be a good nationals for me." In June, at the World Meet in Barcelona, Sarah won the 50-meter breaststroke (32.10) and the 100-meter breaststroke (1:09.14), and finished third in the 200-meter (2:29.25).
At the 2001 World Championships, Poewe finished fourth in the 100-meter breaststroke with a time of 1:08.52 (only 0.02 seconds from the bronze medal). She also competed in the 50-meter breaststroke, making the final and finishing seventh (32.03). She also made it to the semifinals in the 200-meter breaststroke, but finished 11th overall with a time of 2:28.76. At the 2002 Commonwealth Games, she captured the silver in the 200-meter breaststroke and 4x100-meter relay, and took the bronze in the 50-meter and 100-meter breaststroke.
Following the Commonwealth Games, Poewe decided to participate internationally under the flag of Germany; she has duel citizenship because her father is German. At the 2003 World Championships, Poewe competed in the 100-meter breaststroke and finished in fourth place with a time of 1:08.06. In the 200-meter breaststroke, she reached the finals and placed sixth with a time of 2:26.72. In the 50-meter breaststroke, Sarah finished seventh with a time of 32.03.
Poewe represented Germany in the 2004 Athens Games. On August 15th she swam a 1:07.97 time, in the heats of the 100-meter breaststroke event and qualified for the semifinals. In the semi's, held later that day, she clocked in at 1:07.48, which was the second fastest qualifying time all-around. However, Sarah slowed down a bit in the final, as her 1:07.53 time saw her come in fifth. Poewe swam the second leg for Germany, as part of the 4X100-meter medley relay team in heat 1 on August 20. The Germans finished second (4:04.16) and thus qualified automatically for the finals held on August 21. Sarah swam the second leg again in the final, with a personal time of 1:07.38, as Germany won the bronze (4:00.72).
Sources: Jews In Sports