While she doesn’t want the “Olympic dream” to end, Tatjana Schoenmaker admits that she is feeling the effects of daily racing since Sunday, but she hopes to finish the Tokyo Olympics in style with a gold medal in the 200m breaststroke.
The 24-year-old Tuks Sport star qualified for Friday’s final (3.41am SA time) by winning her semi-final on Thursday in another quick time of 2:19.33, which wasn’t far off her Olympic record 2:19.16, which she set in her heat on Wednesday.
She will have Tuks teammate Kaylene Corbett alongside her in the 200m breaststroke final, after the 22-year-old produced another personal best of 2:22.08 to win her semi-final on Thursday.
Schoenmaker began her Olympics in the 100m heats on Sunday, and has competed every day since for a total of five races. She spoke after her semi-final on Thursday about having “a day to rest” before the final on Friday morning, while her seventh race will be the women’s 4x100m medley relay on the same day (1.57pm SA time).
“No, I don’t (want it to end)! But after seven races – because it’s still the relay as well – it’s getting a bit tough. So, I’m still excited to give my best for the last two races, the finals and the relay. And then be able to go back home and actually celebrate everything that we’ve achieved,” she said.
Schoenmaker was again close to the world record of 2:19.11 in her semi-final, but appeared to get her timing wrong at the finish, as she made an extra stroke instead of gliding into the wall.
She smiled in the pool after realising that she had just missed out on a new world mark, but said that she wasn’t taking too much note of the hype around her fast times.
“To be honest, I haven’t seen anything – I really am not much on my phone. So I haven’t seen anything since the day I started swimming. I put all notifications off as well, so for me, it’s quiet, just so that I can focus,” Schoenmaker said.
“Obviously all the messages are positive and good messages, so it’s not bad messages. I only have so many days to focus on my racing, and when I’m done, I’ve got the rest of the year to reply and really say thanks to everyone.”
But now it’s about producing the perfect race in the final, and getting that gold medal that eluded her in the 100m breaststroke, where she had to be satisfied with silver.
Schoenmaker is determined to maintain her concentration throughout the final and not worry about the rest of the field, and stated her delight that teammate Corbett will be pushing for a medal too.
“For me, it (the 100m final) was just again a reminder to focus on my own race. I swim better when I am in my own lane. It does get challenging, especially in the 100, when we all are so close to each other,” she said.
“I wouldn’t say I learnt anything new. I just had to do it again to learn again from it. You make mistakes constantly, every day. I definitely learnt stuff, so I can be glad. Maybe going into the next Olympics, I can just focus on that.
“Tomorrow will be our last day racing, and then the Olympic dream is over – for now! So, I’m excited. It’s so nice racing, and we are racing different girls today as well. I did have the Russian girl (Evgeniia Chikunova, who was second in 2:20.57) next to me again, and she swam an amazing time as well, so happy for her as well – a 16-year-old.
“And then, my teammate (Corbett) making the finals! That’s a massive achievement for her, and I think she probably has the biggest smile on her face.”