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Flying South African Tatjana Schoenmaker smashed the long-standing women’s 200m breaststroke world record.
Tatjana Schoenmaker breaks the world record with 2:18.95 in women’s 200-meter breaststroke at Tokyo Olympics. The previous world record holder was Dane Rikke Moller Pedersen in 2013, with a time of 2:19.11. South African Schoenmaker also held the previous Olympic record for the event with her time of 2:19.16.
As the country held its breath, the 24-year-old from Pretoria produced the swim of her life. She clinched Team South Africa’s first gold medal. And so, adding the ultimate prize to the silver she already collected in the 100m event at these Games.
Schoenmaker had to keep her composure from the start. Especially as American rival and 100m world record-holder, Lilly King flew out of the blocks. She built up a sizable lead of 0.37 seconds over the South African over the first 50 meters.
But Schoenmaker stayed calm as she did what she promised beforehand. She said that she is able to “swim better when I am in my own lane”. This meant that she should stick to her own race instead of chasing any competitor.
She continued in that vein in the second 50 meters. Even as King increased her advantage to 0.49 seconds at the 100m mark. That is when Schoenmaker made her move. Slowly but surely eating into King’s lead with a superb third 50m split of 35.42. That is, compared to the 36.10 of the American.
Then she really turned it on. She pushed well ahead to touch the wall in the world-record time of 2:18.95. This achievement eclipsed the previous mark of 2:19.11, set by Denmark’s Rikke Moller Pedersen in 2013.
Schoenmaker took a moment as she held on to the wall, realizing that she had won the gold. But, she wasn’t aware of the new world record until a few seconds later. Once she had turned around and looked at the scoreboard she was actually in shock!
She reacted with such surprise and elation. Some of the other swimmers, including South African teammate Kaylene Corbett, came through the lanes to congratulate her. Corbett finished in fifth place in a new personal best of 2:22.06. The Team SA swimming team and coaches cheered from the pool-side.
Equalling Penny Heyns
Not since Penny Heyns in 1996 has a South African woman visited the podium on two occasions at a single Games. Or even once for that matter in the pool. Now she has emulated Penny Heyns in the 200m. Penny won the gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. But she is still the only woman to do the breaststroke double with gold in the 100m too.
“It’s amazing! It still feels so unreal. It’s such a big moment… it’s the goodness of God,” said Schoenmaker. Tatjana missed out on qualifying for the Rio Olympics by just one-hundredth of a second.
King took the silver in 2:19.92, while another American in Annie Lazor grabbed the bronze in 2:20.84.
“When we turned at 150m, Lilly [King] and I actually looked at each other and I thought I mustn’t focus on her. I must just focus on my own race,” she explained.
“Then in the last few strokes, my eyes were closed. And then I realized I actually touched first so I didn’t turn around yet. When I actually did turn around to see the time, I saw Lilly had swum a 2:19. And I thought that’s such a good time, but then realized it wasn’t my time. So my emotions in the pool showed that I was pretty shocked when I saw mine.”
Women’s 200m breaststroke results
- Tatjana Schoenmaker (RSA) breaks record with 2:18.95
- Lilly King (USA) 2:19.92
- Annie Lazor (USA) 2:20.84
- Evgeniia Chikunova 2:20.88
- Kaylene Corbett 2:22.06
- Molly Renshaw 2:22.65
- Abbie Wood 2:23.72
- Fanny Lecluyse 2:24.57
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