She did it! And there is hopefully more to come.
Pretoria’s swimming superstar, Tatjana Schoenmaker became the first South African female swimmer to medal at the Olympic Games in 21 years when she finished second in the 100m-breaststroke in Tokyo.
An elated Schoenmaker dedicated her medal to the people of South Africa.
“At the moment, we are not going through the best of times as a country. So, I hope my performance will inspire South Africans showing that nothing is impossible. If it does, I am happy,” the Tuks based swimmer said.
The last time a South African female swimmer medalled at the Olympics was in 2000. Then, Penny Heyns won a bronze medal in the 100m-breaststroke. In 1996 in Atlanta, she won the 100m and 200m breaststroke events.
Schoenmaker’s coach, Rocco Meiring, predicted that the 100m-breaststroke final was going to be a dogfight. He was not wrong. The Pretoria superstar started strongly swimming the first 50 metres in 29.80s. With the turn, she was in the lead. The defending Olympian champion and world record-holder, Lily King (USA), was second. While the 17-year-old Lydia Jacoby (USA) was third.
With 25 metres left, it looked as if the South African was going to win, but Jacoby put in a fantastic acceleration to pip Schoenmaker over the last few metres. Her winning time was 1:04.95.
Schoenmaker was timed swimming 1:05.22 with King third in 1:05.54.
“Honestly, I am not complaining about the result. I have won an Olympic medal. It was amazing to race against the world’s best. Congratulations to the 17-year-old (Jacoby) who had won the first Olympic gold medal. It was meant to happen this way,” Schoenmaker commented.
According to Meiring, who watched from the stands, 65 seconds can feel like a very long time. “As a coach, you are totally powerless. You so wish there is something you can do to help, but you can’t. All I could do was push my stopwatch button and then watch and hope,” Meiring remarked.
— Team South Africa (@TeamSA2024) July 27, 2021
Schoenmaker has, without a doubt, got big match temperament. Since 2017 she has medalled at every major international swimming gala she has competed in. Her medal tally includes two gold and a silver medal at the World Student Games, two gold medals at the Commonwealth Games, a silver medal at the World Championships, and now an Olympic silver medal. There is no respite for the Tuks based swimmer.
Tomorrow afternoon she will compete in the 200m-breaststroke along with Kaylene Corbett (Tuks).
There is a real chance that Schoenmaker will medal again. Gold is certainly not out of the question, as the 200m breaststroke is indeed her strongest item.
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