Despite losing one of her two Commonwealth Games titles to teenage compatriot Lara van Niekerk, Olympic champion Tatjana Schoenmaker says she is delighted to see younger South African swimmers shining in her specialist breaststroke event.
Schoenmaker finished second behind 19-year-old Van Niekerk, who won gold in the 100m breaststroke final in Birmingham on Tuesday night, adding to the teenager’s 50m victory earlier at the Games.
Between Van Niekerk’s two podiums, Schoenmaker successfully defended her 200m title to secure a clean sweep of breaststroke gold medals for SA women.
Olympic finalist Kaylene Corbett, who is two years younger than Schoenmaker at the age of 23, also earned bronze in the 200m final.
“Four years ago (at the 2018 Commonwealth Games) I was one of the juniors, so it’s so nice to stand on the podium now looking at the juniors taking medals. It is a privilege to share these moments,” Schoenmaker said.
“Hopefully there’s still a lot to come. I don’t know how long I will be on the podium, but as long as they (younger swimmers) stay on, it’s fine.
“We just want to represent South Africa and we want SA to be at the top, so it doesn’t really matter who it is, I think we just want to try and keep our country’s name high.”
Van Niekerk, who also bagged bronze in the 50m breaststroke at the recent World Championships, credited Schoenmaker for paving the way for her promising career.
“She’s always been a role model for me over the years,” Van Niekerk said.
“Growing up and being around her has really inspired me and shown me what I can achieve.”
Van Niekerk was expected to return to action on Wednesday night, with the SA team hoping to add to their medal haul in the pool.
Heading into the final session of the gala, SA swimmers had three more opportunities to add to their impressive haul of 11 medals.
Rebecca Meder was set to line up in the women’s 50m backstroke final, while Dune Coetzee was in the line-up for the women’s 400m freestyle final.
Though the start lists had not yet been unveiled on Wednesday afternoon, Van Niekerk was likely to join the SA women’s 4x100m medley relay team in the last final of the gala.