Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa reacts after winning gold in the women's 200-meter breaststroke in a world record time. Photo: Reuters
Tatjana Schoenmaker of South Africa reacts after winning gold in the women's 200-meter breaststroke in a world record time. Photo: Reuters

You leave me speechless, says Penny Heyns on Tatjana Schoenmaker’s Olympic gold

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Jul 30, 2021

Share this article:

CAPE TOWN - Penny Heyns says she was left “speechless” by Tatjana Schoenmaker’s remarkable gold medal and world record in the 200m breaststroke at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday.

The 24-year-old Schoenmaker, who claimed the silver medal in the 100m breaststroke, went one better in the 200m and emulated Heyns – who also won the 200m title at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, as well as the 100m gold.

Heyns is in Tokyo as a member of the swimming governing body Fina, and said on Twitter immediately after the race: “You leave me Speechless and make me (proud). Well done Tatjana. 1st Gold for RSA female swimmer in 25years 1st WR for RSA female swimmer in 22years 1st Gold for Team SA at Tokyo 2020 … and all in Breaststroke! So proud of you Tatjana. Congratulations Rocco (Meiring, Schoenmaker’s coach).”

ALSO READ: It still hasn’t sunk in, says Tatjana Schoenmaker after winning Olympic gold in record time

Later in an interview with SABC Sport TV, Heyns said that Schoenmaker had produced the “absolutely perfect race” as she set a new world record of 2:18.95 – the first woman to go lower than 2:19 – ahead of Americans Lilly King (2:19.92) and Annie Lazor (2:20.84).

The other South African in the final, Kaylene Corbett, finished fifth in a personal best time of 2:22.06.

“Thank goodness I’m not alone (anymore)! Actually, there’s a lot more to that if you look at the stats. It’s the first gold medal in 25 years for Tatjana in breaststroke, in the same event as the last one – the 200 breast. It’s the first world record in 22 years… it’s the first world record of the Games over here (in swimming). It’s the first gold medal for South Africa – so she’s just full of firsts! She’s first all the way,” Heyns told SABC Sport.

ALSO READ: Double medal hope for Team SA in 200m breaststroke as Tatjana Schoenmaker, Kaylene Corbett victorious in semi-finals

“The last time was myself and Sarah Poewe (as South Africans in the 200m breaststroke final at Sydney 2000). I thought that race was so competitive. Kaylene improved her time once again, she did a PB.

“So, she was really, really close, and I think she must be happy, and we as South Africa are really happy. It would’ve been great if we had both on the podium – instead of two Americans! But nonetheless, Tatjana made up for it all, and really, that was the absolute perfect race.”

Heyns said she first took it all in by staying in the stands for the medal ceremony before trying to find Schoenmaker, who was busy with media interviews and a press conference before going for her doping test.

And when she eventually found her, she said Schoenmaker spoke about how she eyed King at the 150m mark, after the American had taken the lead over the first 100m.

“I knew that King was going to go out hard, and I was hoping… I kinda knew she’s gonna ‘die’. I expected King would ‘die’ a little earlier, and Tatjana would level out with her earlier,” Heyns said.

“But I think it’s a blessing in disguise that King took out that way, because that helped Tatjana also – not that we should be seeing each other… Tatjana said something about when they turned at the 150, her and King looked each other in the eye, and then the race began.

“So, I thought that Tatjana paced it really well, and reserved that amazing finish that she has, and the rest is history, I suppose!”

Heyns added that Schoenmaker won’t immediately come to terms with the fact that she was an Olympic champion and world record-holder.

“I think there is a great sense of release. They can say they don’t feel the pressure, but after that awesome performance in the 100m breaststroke – breaking the Olympic record – Tatjana definitely was the one everybody was watching,” she said.

“And like it or not, there must have been a degree of pressure as well. I think there was that great relief that that was her final individual race, and she did exactly what she needed to do. It really was the perfect race.

“By the time I got down there, she was missing for a while. There is a lot that happens post-race – she obviously had a lot of interviews, and the doping people follow you around!

“I did have a brief word with her, and she was very relieved and over the moon. She didn’t really have much words, because the emotion is still too strong.

“It does take a while to sink in – for some, it takes a few months, and for some, it takes 25 years. I think for Tatjana, it is going to take a while before she really realises what she’s achieved at these Games.”

* Click here for the latest Olympics news, schedules, results and medal rankings.


IOL Sport

Share this article: