Tatjana Schoenmaker reaffirmed her status as South Africa’s newest sports hero with another explosive performance in the swimming pool at the ongoing Olympic Games in Japan.
The star swimmer clinched a gold medal in the 200m breaststroke final on Friday to move Team SA a notch up the medal table at the Tokyo showpiece.
The country not only woke up to a gold medal but a new world record after Schoenmaker touched the wall in two minutes 18.95 seconds in the final at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.
Her team-mate Kaylene Corbett finished fifth in 2:22.06.
South Africa are joint in 23rd on the medal table, courtesy of Schoenmaker’ double and Bianca Buitendag’ silver in surfing on Tuesday.
“I have exceeded all my expectations,” an elated Schoenmaker told the reporters after she smashed the previous world record of 2:19.11 set by Rikke Møller Pedersen of Denmark in 2013.
“I never even thought this is my first Olympics and for me to get a lane in the final then everyone stands a chance. To be honest making the final is already an amazing achievement. And I was lucky to have my team-mate [Corbett] there because we were like two-two – two British, two Americans and two South Africans.”
Also on the podium on Friday with Schoenmaker were Americans Lilly King and Annie Lazor, who took silver and bronze in 2:19.92 and 2:20.84, respectively.
“I am excited to go back home and celebrate this with my family. The focus was on my race and I had God’s plan just came through,” added Schonemaker, sporting golden cross earrings during the medal ceremony.
She said “even just being at the Olympics” was worth celebrating.
This win makes her the first South African woman swimmer to win an Olympic gold since 1996, when Penny Heyns smashed the women’s 100m and 200m breaststroke.
You leave me Speechless and make me ??. Well done Tatjana.— Penny Heyns (@pennyheyns) July 30, 2021
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 pic.twitter.com/NOzzDzHiR7