By Karien Jonckheere
GQEBERHA - Tatjana Schoenmaker couldn’t hold back the tears as she exited the pool having swum the 200m breaststroke in the fastest time of her life.
Competing on the third day of the SA Swimming Championships in Gqeberha, the 23-year-old powered to victory in a new SA and African record of 2:20.17, taking a massive chunk off her previous mark of 2:21.79.
That record was set in the semi-finals on her way to winning the silver medal at the World Championships in 2019.
Schoenmaker showed the kind of speed she’s added to her armoury when she claimed the 50m breaststroke title in record time on Wednesday, and that has made all the difference in the longer race where she now holds the fastest time in the world this year.
“This morning I went out quite fast but I couldn’t hold it… I tried to control this race as much as I could and focus on my stroke count,” she explained afterwards.
“When I touched the board I was like – maybe I hit a 2:21 but to hit a 2:20-low, that’s crazy.
“It’s exactly what I wanted [ahead of the Tokyo Olympics] just to build some confidence going in and to know where you are so I think we’re on the right track,” added the teary Schoenmaker.
Elsewhere, Chad le Clos was under pressure once again, this time in the 200m freestyle – the event in which he claimed Olympic silver in Rio five years ago – with Maritzburg teenager Matt Sates looking to complete a 100 and 200m freestyle double.
Sates led from start to finish to claim the title in 1:48.08 with Le Clos second in 1:48.48.
“I wasn’t really trying to beat him. I just wanted to try and swim my best time and do my best so I’m happy. I knew Chad would take it out pretty hard so I just tried to keep it smooth and push as hard as I could on the way back,” said Sates, who is still gunning for an Olympic qualifying time in the 400m individual medley.
In the women’s 200m freestyle it was another 17-year-old, Aimee Canny, who edged out her rivals to take the title in 2:00.19. Gqeberha local Alaric Basson claimed the 200m breaststroke title to add to his 50m triumph earlier in the week, winning in a time of 2:13.44.
Meanwhile, in the disabled events where several national records have already been broken this week, 16-year-old Minke Janse van Rensburg shattered the world record for swimmers with Down Syndrome in the morning 50m freestyle heats, and then bettered the mark again in the final, finishing in 34.56 seconds.