CAPE TOWN - DESPITE setting a new world record to win the gold medal in the 200m breaststroke at the Tokyo Olympics on Friday, Tatjana Schoenmaker was again modest in triumph, insisting that she just wanted to reach the final.
It was the same tone ahead of the 100m decider, where she just missed out on first place to claim the silver medal.
To be fair, that was a bit of a surprise when you consider that she wasn’t among the top three swimmers in the world in the 100m event this year, with regards to times.
But there was no doubt that she was the favourite heading into the 200m final, having been ranked No 1 before the competition, and setting a new Olympic record of 2:19.16 in the heats – just short of the then-world mark of 2:19.11.
So, Schoenmaker had to deal with that pressure, and early in the race, American 100m world record-holder Lilly King sped out of the blocks and was leading at the halfway mark.
The 24-year-old South African, though, waited for the right moment before putting the foot down in the final 50 metres to touch the wall in a new world record of 2:18.95 – the first woman to dip under the 2:19 mark – and an Olympic champion.
“It still hasn’t really sunk in! I’m excited to also go back home and celebrate this with my family. I don’t wish my Olympic dream over, but I am really excited to just go and celebrate, even being at the Olympics, with my parents,” Schoenmaker said afterwards.
“To be honest, if I could just make the final – that was what I’ve said since I started coming through – to make the final is already an amazing achievement.
“I was lucky to have my teammate (Kaylene Corbett) there. We were all like two-two – two Americans, two British, two South Africans. So, it was just amazing to have that teammate there.
“I would’ve never even thought… This is my first Olympics, so for me to get a lane into the final – then everyone stands a chance.
“So, that’s the thing I’ve always believed in. I’ve exceeded – or God has exceeded all my expectations, so I couldn’t have been happier.”
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