Tokyo Olympics

SA's Kaylene Corbett fights back tears after PB in Tokyo: 'I can't explain the feeling'

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South African swimmer Kaylene Corbett
South African swimmer Kaylene Corbett
Anton Geyser/SASPA/SASI

An emotional Kaylene Corbett was delighted to swim a personal best after her stunning Olympics performance in the 200m breaststroke heats on Wednesday.

Performing in her first race on her Olympic debut, the South African swimmer won her 200m breaststroke heat in a personal best of 2:22.48 - shaving nearly 1.70 of her previous best.

The 22-year-old was in disbelief as she touched the wall first and went on to qualify fifth fastest and book her place in the semi-final.

Corbett, who knew at the age of eight that she wanted to become an Olympian, was emotional when asked about what it means to swim her best at the world's biggest showpiece.

"I'm just so thankful. I just came here to swim my personal best and that's just God going over and above what I thought he was going to do," said a tearful Corbett.

"I've had two years of not swimming a personal best, which is long for us. I've been one step off of it and discouraged a little bit and swimming a personal best is all that I wanted.

"So coming in here, watching all my friends and seeing the emotion, that's what I thought and wanted from my Olympics and this whole experience."

READ | How Tatjana Schoenmaker was motivated by Tuks partner Corbett: 'We celebrate each other's victories'

Moments after Corbett won her heat, Tuks team-mate Tatjana Schoenmaker made history once again as she broke the 200m breaststroke Olympic record.

Before speaking to the limited media, Corbett watched Schoenmaker's heat in the press room as she cheered on her "sister", who went on to swim a personal best of 2:19.16.

Corbett had nothing but praise for Schoenmaker and says that she hopes to be inspired by the Olympic silver medallist's performance in Tokyo.

"We say to each other that we're sisters in Christ so it's definitely a huge thing for us. When she swims well, I'm excited and when I swim well, she's excited," said Corbett.

"There hasn't been any animosity between us, we've been supporting each other since day one. I've been with all her 100m and 200m breaststrokes since Commonwealth Games in 2018, when she won the two medals.

"I can't explain the feeling. Having her achieve her goals is something that I absolutely love to see and it's extremely inspiring and exciting and it pushes the whole squad, not just myself."

Corbett says that she has nothing to lose from here on out as she looks to surprise many in her only Olympic event.

"Now, I'm just having fun. I came in here to swim a personal best and I just wanted to do my best and I did. Now it's just time to rock and roll and have fun," she said.

The coronavirus pandemic has seen fans barred from attending any events and at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre, swimmers and coaches are the sole cheerleaders from the stands.

Corbett was one of the several 'fans' to cheer on the South African swimming contingent and were quite boisterous during Schoenmaker's medal heroics earlier this week.

"I really miss the crowd. Personally, I really do believe that the crowd would've added a whole new energy to it but we've done it for the South Africans and we were not quiet," said Corbett.

"We make sure we hear each other when the others are swimming and I've loved this experience."

Corbett will be in action on Thursday for the women's 200m breaststroke semi-final at 04:54 SA time with Schoenmaker at 05:01 SA time.

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

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