Tokyo Olympics

Tatjana Schoenmaker reflects on emotional silver win: 'I couldn't keep it in'

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South African swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker
South African swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker
Tom Pennington/Getty Images

There's no time to relax for South African star swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker as she eyes the 200m breaststroke title.

Schoenmaker opened Team SA's account at this year's Olympics on Tuesday by winning silver in the women's 100m breaststroke at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

It was an historic moment for South African swimming as Schoenmaker became the first female to medal in an Olympic pool since 2000.

READ | Legendary Penny Heyns hails Schoenmaker's exploits: 'She's a great ambassador for swimming' 

Schoenmaker was bursting with pride when she received her silver medal and it seemed like the significance dawned on the 24-year-old.

"It's quite heavy, but it feels amazing. Everything goes by so quick," said Schoenmaker.

"We had such a nice conversation between the three of us before we went out and I think when I was standing behind the podium, I was like, 'What is happening?'

"I was saying that today is the day I'm going to keep in my emotions, but I couldn't."

A group of South African supporters at the arena cheered Schoenmaker as South Africa's flag was hoisted for the first time at the Tokyo Olympics.

"That was amazing, [to] see all the boys and girls. Team South Africa has such a nice spirit, we're there to support each other," said Schoenmaker.

"Hopefully, this brings the country closer together because we do really need it at the moment and hopefully it did."

Schoenmaker praised her opponents, giving credit to American duo Lydia Jacoby and Lily King, who won gold and bronze, respectively.

"I'm very happy, I'm happy for Lydia and Lily and it was overwhelming. I don't think anyone knows how it really feels and knowing that God was on my side, it's just great," said Schoenmaker.

Schoenmaker has to quickly turn her attention to the 200m breaststroke heats, scheduled for later on Wednesday (12:49 SA time).

She is currently the fastest swimmer in the women's 200m breaststroke this year with a time of 2:20.17 - a time she sealed at the SA Championships in April.

"You want to take in the moment as much as possible, but I can't relax completely as I have to start focussing on the 200m.

*Lynn Butler is in Tokyo covering the Olympics for Sport24.

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