June 25, 2024

Tatyana Schoenmaker wins silver at Swimming World Champs

Tatjana Schoenmaker and Rocco Meiring are the real deal in performing at their best when it matters most.

It was proved yesterday when the Tuks swimmer won silver in the 100m breaststroke during Swimming World Championships in Fukuoka, Japan.

Schoenmaker has now won 11 medals (six gold and five silver) at major international events.

There is a real chance she would up her medal tally by Friday to 12. If everything runs smoothly, the Tuks swimmer will compete in the 200m-breaststroke semifinals tomorrow afternoon. It would be a surprise if she did not qualify for the final. Her season’s best time of 2:22.44 is so far the fifth fastest in the world.

Schoenmaker’s pool heroics are genuinely impressive. Only a few athletes, especially in South African women’s sports, have been so consistent over such a long time. Hers has not been an all-solo journey. As it is said, “It takes two to tango”. Meiring is the other half of this amazing success story.

Theirs is a classic scenario of Schoenmaker being the brawn and Meiring the brain. The Tuks swimmer should not take offence when referring to her as being the brawn. After all, she is the one who puts her body on the line for long hours daily. While Meiring is on a continuous quest to find ways to ensure she is faster and stronger.

The relationship has had its ups and downs. There was a time that Meiring was not coaching Schoenmaker. Luckily for South African sports, they talked through their differences. As a coach, Meiring does not believe in always being right. While Schoenmaker admitted that she can be pretty stubborn at times.

Thinking back, the only other time we had such a successful combination in South African women’s sport between athlete and coach was when Martin Marx coached Hestrie Cloete and Terseus Liebenberg Sunette Viljoen. Both athletes medalled at the Olympic Games, World Champs and Commonwealth Games more than once.  

Meiring is honest in his assessment of Schoenmaker’sperformance in yesterday’s final.

“It was a scrappy race with a fortunate outcome. But I am glad for Tatjana. She needed the break.

“The most important thing that changed Tatjana this season is her mindset. Her primary goal is not to win a gold medal next year in Paris at the Olympic Games. She wants to enjoy her ‘journey’ to the Games. That is what she tried to do yesterday. But having said this, Tatjana is a true competitor. She wants to be competitive every time she races. Hopefully, that will lead to her winning a gold medal again.”

According to Schoenmaker, she did not expect to medal yesterday.“I didn’t expect that [medal]. The last world championships I was at, in 2019, I came sixth in the 100m, so to medal is incredible,” said the Tuks swimmer after the race. I don’t train for the 100, I train for the 200, so I’m just grateful that my speed is there.

The 200 is my main focus, but I’m very grateful that my 100 time is fast because that helps a lot with the 200. But it is obviously a completely different race.”

Schoenmaker medal winning timeline since 2017 is as follows:

2017: silver in the 200m breaststroke at the World Student Games in Taipei.

2018: gold in the 100m and 200m breaststroke events during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.

2019: gold in the 100m and 200m breaststroke events during the World Student Games in Naples.

2019: silver in the 100m and 200m breaststroke events during the World Championships in Gwangju, China.

2021: gold in the 200m breaststroke and world record and silver in the 100m breaststroke during the Tokyo Olympic Games.

2022: gold in the 200m breaststroke and world record and silver in the 100m breaststroke during Birmingham Commonwealth Games.

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