Cape Town - Going up against the world’s No 1, eight years her junior, 27-year-old Bianca Buitendag rose to the occasion to take a second silver medal for Team South Africa in the very first Women’s Surfing event at the Olympic Games in Tokyo.
Buitendag, from George, bagged the country’s second medal after swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker on Tuesday claimed a second-place finish in the 100m breaststroke.
“I’m very proud to be South African, and bring some good news home, especially at this time. I love my God, my country and the beautiful people that make it great,” said Buitendag, a Victoria Bay resident.
Head of Team South Africa Patience Shikwambana said she was proud of both Buitendag and Schoenmaker.
The chef de mission of Team SA said: “We are really proud of our two medals from women athletes who are both débutantes and, moreover, one from a new sport within the Olympic Games.
“The women have taken the lead on the eve of Woman’s Month. Let the others follow.”
Surfing SA described the achievement as remarkable.
General manager Robin de Kock said: “She is an amazing athlete. She was not one of the favourites coming up and she went up against the world’s No 1, eight years her junior. To reach the final was an immense achievement.”
Portfolio Councillor for Strategic Services in George, Dirk Wessels could hardly contain his delight at the news of Buitendag’s medal.
“I felt as though the whole of South Africa was watching her this morning (yesterday), I received tons of calls and messages. For George Municipality to have an ambassador of Bianca’s calibre is amazing and proves that world champions are among us,” he said.
Schoenmaker showed her class to finish second in a time of 1 minute 5.22 seconds (1:05.22) behind American teenager Lydia Jacoby, who took gold in 1:04.95.
Schoenmaker looked to be well in control over the first 70 metres of the race, but the 17-year-old Jacoby roared back in the closing stages to clinch the title.
“We knew we were going to have a tough race, going into the final, so I cannot complain. I’ve been happy since the heats obviously (where she produced a new Olympic record of 1:04.82), so it was just amazing racing some of the world’s best. Congratulations to her, an amazing 17-year-old who’s just won gold. I couldn’t have been happier,” the 24-year-old said.
Schoenmaker, who is based at the University of Pretoria sports club, also enjoyed being able to see family and friends on a special TV screen next to the pool at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, with no crowds allowed in the arena due to Covid-19 restrictions.
“My teammates, my family, close family friends … I didn’t expect to see all of them on the TV – I thought maybe just my parents. But it was amazing. They asked me to say something, but I was just scared that I would start crying or something. So I just said thank you, bye!”
Sports Minister Nathi Mthethwa expressed his well wishes to Schoenmaker on Twitter: “Congratulations Tatjana Schoenmaker on your momentous achievement in becoming the first female South African swimmer to win an Olympic medal in over 20 years, and for elevating women in sport globally. We are exceptionally proud of you. Keep flying the South African flag high!”
Schoenmaker will begin her 200m breaststroke campaign on Wednesday where she is the favourite for the gold medal.