PRETORIA – For Tatjana Schoenmaker, it will be all about milliseconds as she prepares for next year’s Tokyo Olympic Games.
Schoenmaker, of the University of Pretoria's swimming club TuksSwimming, has been told by her coach, Rocco Meiring, that her days of “flying under the radar” is something of the past.
From now on every time she competes internationally, she will be the one that everyone wants to beat. That is, unfortunately, the price you pay when you win a silver medal at a World Championships.
“For us, it is all about marginal gains,” explained Meiring when asked about the plan from now until the Olympic Games. “The goal is for Tatjana to consistently swim times of two minutes 23 seconds every time she competes in the 200m breaststroke, with the ultimate being to get her to swim 2:21 or even faster.”
Over the last three years, the Tuks swimmer has managed to continually improve her 200m breaststroke times.
In 2017, her best was 2:24.61 and last year it was 2:22.02. During the World Championships, she swam 2:21.79.
Only three swimmers have clocked faster times this season – Russia's Yuliya Efimova (2:20.17), Annie Lazor of the USA (2:20.77) and USA’s Lilly King (2:21.39).
“Tatjana has always been fast,” added Meiring. “She was, however, handicapped slightly by her start and in the way she executed the tumble turn.
“The analysis during the World Championships indicates that she is getting better at doing the turns, but there is still room for improvement.
“As I have said, it is all about ensuring she gets to be that hundredth of a second faster all the time. Something else we focused on was improving her front-end speed. She has got to be faster than 1 minute 10 seconds over the first 100 metres. Ideally, her splits should be between 1:08 and 1:09.
“Being truly competitive at international level is a never-ending quest.”
According to Meiring, the aim is also to try and improve Schoenmaker’s 100m breaststroke times. Currently, it is 1:06.32.
But her main focus, for now, is going to be the 200m-breaststroke. Meiring explained that it is difficult for swimmers to excel in both events.
“The problem is that training intensively for both events can be counterproductive in the long run. Still, I want Tatjana to be able to swim times faster than 1:06 in the 100m breaststroke.
“To do so, she has got to be able to swim the second 50 metres under 35 seconds. She has managed to do so on two occasions – at the World Student Games and the World Championships. But consistent faster times in the 100m breaststroke will enable Tatjana to also be faster over 200 metres.”
So far this season it seems as if the Tuks swimmer can do nothing wrong. She won two gold medals at the World Student Games (100m as well as 200m breaststroke).
She also made South African sports history during the recent World Long Course Championships by becoming the first female swimmer to medal when she won silver in the 200m breaststroke.
To top it all, she also won two gold medals at the Tokyo World Cup.