I just wanted to make a lane in the final, says Schoenmaker after ending King’s winning streak
CAPE TOWN – SHE was trailing for most of the first 50 metres, but Tatjana Schoenmaker came roaring back to beat defending champion Lilly King and clinch victory in the 100m breaststroke semi-finals at the Tokyo Olympics on Monday to advance to Tuesday’s final.
The South African star, who broke American King’s Olympic record in Sunday’s heat with a time of 1:04.82, wasn’t quite as quick this time around, but winning was all that mattered, and she touched the wall in 1:05.07.
King, who is also the world record-holder, suffered her first defeat in a 100m breaststroke race since 2015, finishing second in 1:05.40, but while she might be smarting about her winning streak ending, she will know that it’s only the final that really counts.
The 24-year-old American, who hails from Evansville in Indiana, went out quickly and led for about 40 metres until Schoenmaker stepped it up close to the wall to lead at the halfway mark with a 30.48-second split.
But after that, the 24-year-old South African edged ahead gradually and eventually pulled away to win by over three-tenths of a second.
She qualified as the fastest swimmer for the final, with American Lydia Jacoby winning the first semi-final in 1:05.72.
“In this race, I was just trying to see – especially because of it being in the morning, I was quite tired – just to see if I can stay with her,” Schoenmaker said afterwards.
“So ja, that’s literally the whole plan, and I just wanted to make a lane in the final so that we could rest now, and then be ready for the finals.”
The final takes place at 4.17am SA time on Tuesday, and Schoenmaker said that she was still buzzing from her Olympic record swim on Sunday.
“It’s still so unreal! It doesn’t feel… It’s literally like a dream. I didn’t even notice my cap was falling off. That’s how I wasn’t even focused. Today I felt my cap – okay, it’s busy falling off now!”
While her 200m breaststroke campaign – where she is the favourite and ranked No 1 in the world this year – begins on Wednesday, Schoenmaker will hope that she can complete the first part of her attempt at a double to become only the second woman to take both breaststroke gold medals, following fellow South African Penny Heyns – who was at poolside on Monday – from the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.