South African swimming duo Tatjana Schoenmaker and Kaylene Corbett have advanced to the women’s 200m breaststroke final at the Tokyo Olympics after winning their semi-finals on Thursday.
However, Schoenmaker, who won the 100m breaststroke silver on Tuesday after setting an Olympic record in the heats of that event, remained the overwhelming favourite to scoop Team SA’s first gold of the games.
Schoenmaker screamed with delight when she caught sight of her 2min 18.95 sec mark and then she wept with joy as she was congratulated by the American silver and bronze medalists Lilly King and Annie Lazor and her fifth-placed Tuks teammate Kaylene Corbett.
The last time two SA swimmers competed in the finals was at Athens 2004 when Ronald Schoeman and Ryk Neethling ended second and forth in the men’s 100m freestyle. And last occasion two SA women were in the same final was at Sydney 2000 when Penny Heyns and Sarah Poewe finished third and fourth in the 100m breaststroke.
The 24-years old’s victory marked the second African gold medal in the pool following Tunisian Ahmed Hafnaoui’s success in the men’s 400m freestyle on Sunday. She makes history by becoming the first South African woman swimmer to win an Olympic gold medal since Penny Heyns at the 1996 Atalanta Olympic Games.
“If I could just make the final, that was what I said since I started coming, to make the final was already and amazing achievement,” she said, adding it was a bonus to have Corbett in the line-up with her. “I was lucky to have my teammate there. We were all two too- two Americans, two British and two South Africans, so it was just amazing to have that teammate there” explained the Olympic gold medallist, Tatjana Schoenmaker.