Friday, 30 July 2021 06:17

By Lehlohonolo Lehana.

Tatjana Schoenmaker claimed South Africa's first Olympic gold medal in Tokyo as she won the women's 200m breaststroke final on Friday, setting a new world record in the process.

Swimming in lane 4, Schoenmaker timed her race to perfection, sitting behind American Lilly King for the first 100m before making her move over the last 100m.

It was a flawless display from the 24-year-old, who touched the wall in a time of 2:18.95.

"If I could just make the final, that was what I said since I started coming, to make the final is already an 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, two South Africans [in the final]  — so it was just amazing to have that teammate there."

The previous world record, set by Denmark's Rikke Moller Pedersen at the World Championships in 2013, was 2:19.11.

King took silver in 2:19.92 while American Annie Lazor rounded up the podium with the bronze medal (2:20.84).

South Africa's Kaylene Corbett finished 5th in a time of 2:22.06.

Schoenmaker and Corbett are only the third pair of SA swimmers to have made the same Olympic final after Roland Schoeman and Ryk Neethling in the 100m freestyle at Athens 2004 and Penny Heyns and Sarah Poewe at Sydney 2000.

Schoenmaker also praised compatriot Heyns, who won the breaststroke double at Atlanta 1996, for encouraging her along the way. "I haven’t achieved so much yet," she added.

Schoenmaker is only the 10th South African to have won multiple medals at a single Games, and the fourth since readmission, after Heyns, Schoeman (Athens 2004) and Chad le Clos (London 2012 and Rio 2016).