Tatjana Schoenmaker showed she means business in chasing the gold in the 200m breaststroke with a new Olympic record in her heat on Wednesday.
CAPE TOWN – After securing a silver medal in the 100m breaststroke, Tatjana Schoenmaker showed she means business in chasing the gold in the 200m with a new Olympic record in her heat on Wednesday.
The 24-year-old South African produced the second-fastest time in history by winning heat four in a time of 2 minutes 19.16 seconds (2:19.16), which was just shy of the world record of 2:19.11, set by Denmark’s Rikke Moller Pedersen in 2013.
The 200m breaststroke is Schoenmaker’s favoured event, and she surprised herself with her performances in the 100m earlier in the week, where she also swam a new Olympic record of 1:04.82.
She was unable to keep up the pace in the final, mentioning that the intense racing and a morning final contributed to her fading in the final 25 metres to finish second in 1:05.22, with American teenager Lydia Jacoby winning gold in 1:04.95.
But in the 200m, she is the top-ranked swimmer this year with a time of 2:20.17, which was an African record, coming into Tokyo.
She lowered that mark to the remarkable 2:19.16, which didn’t look on the cards over the first few laps of the pool.
Schoenmaker was leading by a few tenths of a second after the first 50 metres, and 0.18 off the world record pace, before increasing her advantage to nearly a second at the 100m mark, but still almost half-a-second outside the world record.
But then she turned it on, pushing hard to get closer to the required pace, and she was well in front and chasing Pedersen’s record.
Schoenmaker was ahead of the TV line displaying the world record pace, but just couldn’t finish it off.
— Team South Africa (@TeamSA2020) July 28, 2021
But she was in disbelief afterwards when she realised she broke the Olympic mark of 2:19.59, set by the United States’ Rebecca Soni at the 2012 London Games.
Schoenmaker put her hand over her mouth and had tears of joy in her eyes.
American Lilly King was the second-fastest qualifier for the semi-finals, but was well behind in 2:22.10 – nearly three seconds off the pace.
The other South African in the 200m breaststroke, Kaylene Corbett, also won her heat in fine style in a time of 2:22.48 to go through to the semi-finals, which will take place on Thursday morning SA time.