NAPOLI – It was mission accomplished for Tatjana Schoenmaker and Kaylene Corbett as both managed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympic Games a second-time on Monday night during the World Student Games in Napoli, Italy.
The University of Pretoria (Tuks) Schoenmaker won the 200m breaststroke in a time of 2:22.92 which is only 0.89s slower than the personal best she set during last year's Gold Coast Commonwealth Games when she won in 2:22.02.
So far this year only six swimmers have managed to set faster times.
"I was ready for the final, and I gave it my best shot. It's my second time swimming at 2.22, and I'm delighted. I wanted to see where I am at the moment. Clearly, I'm in a perfect place," the Tuks swimmer explained during a poolside interview.
Judging by her results at the World Student Games, the Tuks swimmer has a big-match temperament.
It is the second time she managed to achieve the unique double winning the 100m and 200m breaststroke at an international gala. She also did so during last year's Commonwealth Games.
Schoenmaker might add another medal to her collection. This morning on her birthday she won her 50m-breaststroke heat in a time of 31.31s. The final is on Tuesday evening.
Tuks' Corbett was fourth last night swimming 2:24.93. The Olympic 200m breaststroke qualification standard is 2:25.52.
Since the beginning of the year, she managed to improve her personal best time by nearly three seconds. At the start of the season, her best time was 2:27.30.
Corbett credits getting steadily faster to her coach Rocco Meiring and her support team.
"Before I joined Tuks Swimming I was swimming between 25 to 30 kilometres a week and thought everything was on track. I also did not realise the importance of gym work. I must admit I was in for quite a rude awakening once I started training at Tuks. The number of kilometres I had to swim during the week doubled.
"It was rough at first, but as my body adapted to the more serious training regime, I was amazed in the changes in my body."
According to Meiring, Schoenmaker and Corbett were both brilliant.
"Tatjana and Kaylene were tactically astute. It was vital that they stick to their respective strengths to assure that after the first 150 metres, they are in a position to win.
"Even before the final, they realised that it would take a time faster than the Olympic qualification standard to be in contention to medal. The fact that four swimmers dipped under 2:25.52 proves the quality of competition at the World Student Games."
Meiring added that the result also highlights the role universities play in South African sport.
"Swimmers should realise that there is no need to seek the help of international coaches to improve on their times.
"The coaching structures at our universities are good enough for South African swimmers to become global champions."