Tokyo Olympics

'Sisters' Schoenmaker, Corbett on making SA Olympic history: 'It brings us closer together'

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South African swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker
South African swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker

For the first time since 2000, South Africa will have two women in an Olympic swimming final.

On Thursday, Tatjana Schoenmaker and Kaylene Corbett put the country on the map once again as they made the final of the women's 200m breaststroke.

Corbett shaved another 0.40 seconds off her personal best (PB) in the first semi-final as she touched the wall in 2:22.08.

The 22-year-old was third going into in the final 50m but pushed through to win the semi-final as American star Lily King finished second (2:22.27).

"I'm just over the moon once again. What more do you want from a place like this. If you told me in 2016 that I'll be swimming in an Olympic final, then I would be proud so I'm holding back tears. I'm extremely excited."

Schoenmaker followed Corbett in the second semi-final as the 100m silver medallist produced another stellar performance.

After setting an Olympic record in the heats, Schoenmaker was full of confidence and led her semi-final from start to finish as she clocked 2:19.33.

Schoenmaker finished as the fastest swimmer heading into the final, with Corbett the fourth fastest.

"When I saw Kaylene swim another PB, I was like 'let me see if I can do it'," Schoenmaker said after her race.

"So it's nice having her before me. I couldn't see the last 50m because we were behind the screens but when I heard Kaylene, I was like 'Oh my word, really girl?'"

READ | Stage set for Schoenmaker to be SA's golden girl: '15 years of training for 2 minutes, 20 seconds'

The last time two South African women swimmers qualified for a final came at the 2000 Sydney Olympics when Penny Heyns and Sarah Poewe made the women's 100m breaststroke final. Heyns picked up bronze and Poewe finished fourth.

Despite being competitors in the pool, Schoenmaker and Corbett are close, both stating on numerous occasions that they are like "sisters".

The duo are training partners at Tuks University in Pretoria and are both coached by Rocco Meiring. 

"She (Schoenmaker) is insane and incredible and to share this experience with her, it just brings us closer together every time," said Corbett.

The 200m breaststroke final is scheduled to get under way at 03:41 (SA time) at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre on Friday.

Schoenmaker is excited to get the opportunity to swim with Corbett and opened up on the preparations in Japan.

"If she swims like that in the final, she's definitely going to do so good," said Schoenmaker.

"Myself and Kaylene, when we prepare for competitions, we try go and get our best swims in the morning because the next race, you can build on that and that's what we've been doing. Our heat swims, we prepare like it's a final. 

"In major swimming competitions, you have to be ready every single time and that helped myself and Kaylene."

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

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