Tatjana Schoenmaker sounded a serious warning to her Tokyo Games rivals on Sunday evening as she broke the 100m breaststroke Olympic record in the heats.
Schoenmaker went into the showpiece seeded fourth in this event and first in the 200m breaststroke, but she threw down the gauntlet as she powered into the lead and almost lost her green cap on her way to clocking 1min 04.82sec to win her heat.
And given how she floated into the wall, there’s room to go even faster.
In her wake was one of her two main American opponents, Lydia Jacoby who touched in 1:05.52. The other US competitor, world record-holder and reigning Olympic champion Lilly King, won the final heat in 1:05.55. King owns the 1:04.13 world mark and the 1:04.72 world lead.
Sweden’s Sophie Hansson was fourth fastest overall in 1:05.66.
For Schoenmaker, who took nearly a second off the 1:05.74 African record she posted in April, said she was surprised and warned that the others would go faster.
“I didn’t expect that at all. Obviously my 200 is a always little better, but it was a good swim … Because it was my first race I gave it all from the start, I really just wanted to go out, get my pace up, but obviously didn’t expect that fast.”
Schoenmaker played down her effort, warning that the others were going to come at her.
“I think most of the girls are going to swim much faster tomorrow. I’m just trying to get into the final and just have a lane there.
“The 100s not my best, but that’s why I was so shocked. I’m very excited to race the other amazing girls I didn’t race today.”
She insisted she was feeling no pressure, saying her main goal was to swim best times. “I already did it so that means it’s off my shoulders.”
However she dresses it up, Schoeman has signalled a clear intent that she’s on the hunt for two medals in Japan.
Her performance also delivered some much needed impetus to Team SA after two mostly lacklustre days of Olympic action. © SowetanLive