Xanet Scheepers

By Xanet Scheepers

Digital Lifestyle Editor

9 fun facts you didn’t know about Olympic champion Tatjana Schoenmaker

Ahead of Olympic Day on Friday, 23 June, we share some interesting facts about one of South Africa’s favourite Olympians.

Tatjana Schoenmaker won South Africans’ hearts back in 2020 at the Olympic Games in Tokyo when she won the gold medal and set the world record in the 200-metre breaststroke. She also won the silver medal in the 100-metre breaststroke event.

Tatjana is also the African record holder in the long course and short course 100-metre breaststroke as well as the short course 200-metre breaststroke.

She is a former African record holder in the long course 50-metre breaststroke and former South African record holder in the short course 50-metre breaststroke.

The 25-year-old brunette beauty didn’t only swim into the hearts of South Africans, she also swam right into her fiancé, Joel Smith’s heart, who is none other than Siya Kolisi’s brother-in-law.  

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Tatjana Schoenmaker’s engagement

Joel asked Tatjana for her hand in marriage in April. He got onto one knee at the top of a mountain at Eagles’ Nest, Constantia in Cape Town.

Not many details about how the couple first met and when they started dating have been made public, but we do know that the gold medallist confirmed that she was in a relationship with Joel at the end of February, when she shared a picture of them together at a rugby match.

ALSO SEE: PICS: Inside SA swim sensation Tatjana Schoenmaker’s mountain-top engagement

Tatjana the Olympian

Commenting on her road to the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo ahead of Olympic Day on Friday, 23 June, Tatjana said that it is an honour to go to the Olympics and to be titled an Olympian.

“It’s that goal you set out for yourself as a young child that is often seen as unobtainable, so being able to reach that goal, travel the world, and represent your country is insane, but what makes the moment even more special is being South African.

“South African people have that Ubuntu spirit, and without the people and that spirit I don’t think we would achieve half the things we are able to. I am the biggest cry-baby, but I am sure any fellow-Olympian would agree with me, it’s that moment when you stand on the podium and get to proudly sing your national anthem – it simply unites us, which to me is the most special moment anyone could ask for,” the swimmer said in a statement.

Fun facts about Tatjana

  • Favourite Song to work out to: Any upbeat song
  • Favourite Under Armour shoe: FLOW Velociti Elite
  • Favourite Pre-workout snack: Banana
  • Favourite apparel collection: Project Rock
  • Inspiration Sportsman/Role model: Any sportsman or woman that loves doing what they do! Every person that wakes up early or commits at night – it’s an inspiration on its own.
  • Favourite Motivational Quote: I have too many!
  • Favourite Olympic Sport to Watch: Athletics and Swimming
  • Favourite Olympic Athlete to Watch: Fellow Teammates! #TeamSA
  • Funniest #TeamSA Teammate: Everyone! Team SA has the best team spirit! I don’t think you’ve really truly experienced a team dynamic and team spirit if you haven’t been with team SA. Other teams would stop and watch us as they too wanted to experience something like that!

Tatjana Schoenmaker’s message for future SA Olympians

The swimmer says athletes need to remain in their passion and purpose.

“Sometimes, us as athletes, we always strive for the achievements, for example to get better or reach a certain goal, and that sometimes takes away from the purpose and passion of the sport.”

Tatjana adds that it is important to embrace the sport and enjoy it.

“At the end of the day, a happy swimmer is a fast swimmer, so if we maintain that passion, we will ultimately maintain our purpose. The characteristics that our sport teaches us is also so important – the discipline and the perseverance – they create characteristics within you that last a lifetime, long after your swimming career has ended.”

Her final words of encouragement are to not undersell yourself “in the sense of your achievements not being big enough, or not being fast enough – this only causes athletes to quickly go on to set the next goal, but really what you should be doing is enjoying the goals that you achieve no matter how big or small they are. Savour in the moment before jumping into the next goal.”

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Olympics swimming Tatjana Schoenmaker

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