Tokyo Olympics

SA's Tatjana Schoenmaker reacts to stunning Olympic record: 'I didn't expect that'

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South African swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker
South African swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker
Roger Sedres/Gallo Images

South African star swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker was stunned when she posted a new Olympic record in the women's 100m breaststroke at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on Sunday.

Schoenmaker, who was swimming out of lane 5, touched the wall first in a time of 1:04.82 in her heat to qualify as the fastest swimmer for Monday's semi-final.

"I didn't expect that at all. When I saw I was ahead, I thought I was dying because I was going way too fast at the end and I thought I could just try and hold on," said Schoenmaker after her record-breaking performance.

"I obviously saw that they were catching up a bit at the end and I was getting quite tired... I didn't expect that, very happy with that as a first race."

Making her Olympic debut, Schoenmaker surprised a world-class field, which includes world-record holder Lily King of America, who finished first in her heat (1:05.55) and had held the previous Olympic record of 1:04.93.

The 24-year-old Schoenmaker was worried that she started out too strong but says that her first obstacle is finally off her back.

"In the end, I was feeling a bit tired. My stroke rate was much higher so I could feel I went out strong. I'm not sure what my going out time was but it was probably my PB," said Schoenmaker, who won gold in the 100m and 200m breaststroke at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

"I'm happy with my time and I feel like this has taken a mountain off my shoulders, so now I can just enjoy racing like the world's best."

The South African will have a quick turnaround when she competes in the semi-finals on Monday 02:50 (SA time).

Schoenmaker says that she did what she came here to do and regardless what happens, will walk with a smile on her face.

"I gave my best now, my next race might to be as great, but I came here and swam a PB," she said.

"So for me, I can walk away with a bigger smile because there's still two more races. There'll obviously be surprises in other races. I just want to get a lane in the final.

"If I can just try and race the same race again tomorrow, I would be so happy."

Team South Africa has had a poor start so far, with Schoenmaker the only South African to win and be in with a shot of the an Olympic medal so far.

"Now I can finally go to my friends and say I'm an Olympian," exclaimed Schoenmaker.

"This just makes it very official, it's just so amazing to be a part of it."

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

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