CAPE TOWN - Tatjana Schoenmaker, the golden girl of Mzansi!
The 24-year-old from Pretoria produced the swim of her life to clinch Team South Africa’s first gold medal of the Tokyo Olympics on Friday in a new world record time of two minutes 18.95 seconds (2:18.95).
Schoenmaker had to keep her composure from the start as American rival and 100m world record-holder Lilly King flew out of the blocks and built up a sizable lead of 0.37 seconds over the South African over the first 50 metres.
But Schoenmaker stayed calm, as she did what she promised beforehand, when she said that she is able to “swim better when I am in my own lane”, meaning that she should stick to her own race instead of chasing any competitor.
She continued in that vein in the second 50 metres, even as King increased her advantage to 0.49 seconds at the 100m mark.
That is when Schoenmaker made her move, slowly but surely eating into King’s lead with a superb third 50m split of 35.42 compared to the 36.10 of the American.
Then she really turned it on, pushing well ahead to touch the wall in the world-record time of 2:18.95, which eclipsed the previous mark of 2:19.11, set by Denmark’s Rikke Moller Pedersen in 2013.
Schoenmaker took a moment as she held on to the wall, realising that she had won the gold, but she wasn’t aware of the new world record until a few seconds later, once she had turned around and looked at the scoreboard.
She reacted with surprise and elation, and was hugged by some of the other swimmers, including South African teammate Kaylene Corbett, who finished in fifth place in a new personal best of 2:22.06 as a number of the Team SA swimming team and coaches cheered from pool-side.
King took the silver in 2:19.92, while another American in Annie Lazor grabbed the bronze in 2:20.84.
Schoenmaker had to be satisfied with the silver medal in the 100m breaststroke, but now she has emulated Penny Heyns in the 200m, with the latter having won the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics – and still the only woman to do the breaststroke double with gold in the 100m too.
Women’s 200m breaststroke results
1 Tatjana Schoenmaker (RSA) 2:18.95
2 Lilly King (USA) 2:19.92
3 Annie Lazor (USA) 2:20.84
4 Evgeniia Chikunova 2:20.88
5 Kaylene Corbett 2:22.06
6 Molly Renshaw 2:22.65
7 Abbie Wood 2:23.72
8 Fanny Lecluyse 2:24.57
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