- South African swimming sensation Tatjana Schoenmaker is in Tokyo and opens up on her first Olympic experience.
- Schoenmaker says that she is trying not to let the event's magnitude overwhelm her as she competes in the 100m and 200m breaststroke.
- The 24-year-old wants to do her best and hopes for no regrets.
It's finally time for South African star swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker to make her mark on the biggest stage.
This week, Schoenmaker will be making her debut at the Tokyo Olympics as she competes in the 100m and 200m breaststroke.
The expectation is high for Schoenmaker following her two gold medals in the 100m and 200m breaststroke at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast.
While the 24-year-old will not have the whole Olympics experience as the coronavirus pandemic has restricted fans from this year's Games, Schoenmaker is still managing to have the time of her life.
"I can't believe I'm here. If it sinks in there'll be a lot of emotions," said Schoenmaker.
"I just want to enjoy this moment. Time goes by so quickly for the Olympics experience to sink in."
The pandemic has immensely impacted this year's rescheduled Tokyo Olympics, with fans barred from attending and strict protocols for all involved.
However, Schoenmaker is taking all the Olympic Village has to offer, stating that while they cannot be tourists, athletes do get to experience some Japanese culture.
"We're lucky that this whole experience doesn't overwhelm you," she said.
"Everyone is dealing with it well, they have good protocols in place and none of those things is bothering us.
"We're just carrying on like we do in South Africa - wearing masks and putting on hand sanitiser - and I believe everything will go well.
"There's a plaza and all the stores so you can get everything you need. Every country has their own things and to be able to see the different cultures even though we can't really go outside, it's amazing."
Schoenmaker had her first swim at the pool this week and says that her preparation is going well.
"We've been travelling for four days and when I dived in, I felt like 'Oh gosh, it's like learning to swim again', but it felt good," she said.
A lot is resting on Schoenmaker's shoulders as she looks to become the first SA female swimmer to win an Olympic medal in 21 years.
Schoenmaker insists that she doesn't want to put too much pressure on herself and hopes to do her best in Tokyo.
"I don't want to leave here thinking I should've or didn't. I don't want to put too much pressure on myself, but I want to give and do my best," said Schoenmaker.
"I want to take in as much as I can; it's huge for me. 2016 I was in a different place where this year, I'm ranked a bit better. I'm at the Olympics, which is already insane, but I want to do my best."
Schoenmaker gets her Olympic campaign under way on Sunday in the 100m breaststroke from 12:00 SA time.
*Lynn Butler is in Tokyo covering the Olympics for Sport24.