Tatjana Schoenmaker is one race from a historic feat.
Tatjana Schoenmaker is one race from a historic feat when she lines up in the 200m breaststroke final at the World Long-Course Championships in Gwangju, South Korea today.
The 22-year-old made a strong statement in her semi-final setting a new South African and continental record of 2:21.79 highlighting her chances of a medal.
Stepping onto the blocks, Schoenmaker will be looking to become the first South African woman to win a medal at the global showpiece with training partner Kaylene Corbett joining her in the final.
It will be the first time in nearly two decades that South Africa will have two women in a final at a major global swimming event.
The duo follows in the footsteps of Olympic legend Penny Heyns and Sarah Poewe, who featured in the 100m breaststroke final at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games.
Schoenmaker lined up against defending champion Yuliya Efimova, who won the race in a time of 2:21.20. The South African turned first after the first two laps before Efimova wrested the lead away with Schoenmaker putting in a gutsy swim to stay with her and touching in a new national record. Schoenmaker shaved 0.23s off the previous SA record she set at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.
“I am extremely happy I am ready to race tomorrow, I am not going to aim for gold,” Schoenmaker said. “I just want to give my best, making the final at world champs is insane, so I can update my status which says, finalist.”
Schoenmaker said she did not expect to produce such a fast time but focused on her own race despite being in the same semi-final as Efimova.
“It was so amazing, I can’t even explain, it was nice and comfortable at the beginning, but I wasn’t sure if the time was going to be good,” Schoenmaker said.
“I just tried to stay in my lane, and I am extremely happy. I just did my best, and God did the rest so I cannot believe it.”
Schoenmaker raced in the 100m breaststroke final on Tuesday at her first senior world championships where she finished in sixth place. World 100m breaststroke record-holder Lilly King of the United States won the race with Efimova finishing in second place.
King was disqualified in the 200m breaststroke heats for not touching the wall with both hands during one of her turns. Her absence has opened the door for Schoenmaker.