CAPE TOWN - TATJANA Schoenmaker says she was “very happy” to claim a silver medal in the women’s 100m breaststroke after being pipped for gold by American teenager Lydia Jacoby at the Tokyo Olympics on Tuesday.
The 24-year-old Schoenmaker is the favourite for the 200m breaststroke title later this week, and did not have any major expectations coming into the 100m event, other than to swim a new personal best.
But once she did that in the heats, she became a real threat to American duo Jacoby and world record-holder Lilly King, who is the defending champion.
Schoenmaker produced a new Olympic record of 1:04.82, and continued her good form in the semi-finals, where she won in 1:05.07 and beat King into second place.
But she may not have caught sight of the 17-year-old Jacoby, who won the first semi-final in 1:05.72.
Schoenmaker began the final in fine style, racing into a lead of about three-tenths of a second over King, who was the quickest out of the blocks.
The University of Pretoria athlete looked on course for the gold, but Jacoby powered ahead and clinched victory in 1:04.95, while Schoenmaker took the silver in 1:05.22, with King third in 1:05.54.
The South African was smiling in the pool and congratulated Jacoby, but burst into tears on the podium during the medal ceremony.
“It was amazing! 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, so it was just amazing racing some of the world’s best,” Schoenmaker said afterwards.
“Congratulations to her, an amazing 17-year-old who’s just won gold. No, I couldn’t have been happier.
“We knew it was going to be a close race – you had to be on it. It is obviously a bit tougher, waking up in the morning and being on fire.
“But everyone is in the same boat. It was meant to happen in this way, and I cannot thank God enough for giving me the talent to do what I enjoy doing.
“Very happy! Obviously my 100 wasn’t seeded as great as the 200. I always wanted to do really good in the 100, and I didn’t expect it – it’s amazing!”
Talking about the 200m, Schoenmaker is back in the pool for her heat on Wednesday at 12.49pm SA time, with the final scheduled for Friday at 3.41am.