Tokyo Olympics

Emotional Schoenmaker in disbelief after shattering world record for gold: 'It's indescribable'

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South African swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker wins gold medal at Tokyo Olympics
South African swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker wins gold medal at Tokyo Olympics
Roger Sedres/Gallo Images

South African star swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker says what she is feeling is "indescribable" after shattering an eight-year world record to win the Olympics 200m breaststroke final on Friday.

Schoenmaker made history in Tokyo as she claimed Team South Africa's first Olympic gold medal at this year's Games.

Despite a challenge from American duo Lily King (2:19.92) and Annie Lazor (2:20.84), Schoenmaker sped ahead to touch the wall in a record time of 2:18.95.

Shortly after racing, Schoenmaker then hurried off to receive her Olympic gold medal as the South African anthem rang at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

"It's indescribable," she said, clutching her medal. 

"It really hasn't sunk in yet. The whole process went really quick. It'll probably kick in when I get home."

The 24-year-old South African broke Denmark's Rikke Moller Pedersen world record set in Barcelona in 2013.

Schoenmaker says that she was stunned to break 2:19.

"When I first saw my time, I saw 2:19 [King's time on the electronic scoreboard], and didn't know that wasn't my time," said the Tuks University student.

"2:19 has been in the record books for so long. I'm just really grateful."

Schoenmaker said a challenging King pushed her to get over the line.

"She definitely pushed me. I think it was just amazing knowing that you're able to race against the world's best. It couldn't have been a better race and it was tough," said Schoenmaker.

"My first 100m isn't always that fast, so I literally just focused on my own stroke and when we got to the last turn, it was anyone's race. 

"Whether I came first or last, I would have been able to walk out and know that I gave it my all.

"Everyone in that final swam a great race. Whether I came first or second, I knew I could walk away with a smile on my face."

*Lynn Butler is in Tokyo covering the Olympic Games for Sport24

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