Sunday Times

Tatjana is on top of the world


● Tatjana Schoenmake­r will be the main attraction when she tackles the women’s 100m breaststro­ke event today after swimming a world-leading time in the 200m breaststro­ke in Gqeberha on Friday night.

The Pretoria swimmer clocked 2min 20.17sec at the SA Invitation­al Aquatics Championsh­ips in the Newton Park pool to occupy the top of the world rankings in 2021 with the Tokyo Games just more than three months away.

More importantl­y, however, her time is the joint fastest in the world since 2018, ranking her alongside drug-tainted Russian Yulia Efimova.

She’s thrown down a gauntlet to the rest of the world, most of whom have yet to dive into competitiv­e swimming for the season.

Her swim is the highlight so far of the gala, which has been low key with only three others achieving Olympic qualifying times — Chad Le Clos and Ethan du Preez in the 200m butterfly and Kaylene Corbett, also in the women’s 200m breaststro­ke.

That’s 18 events down and eight to go today and tomorrow.

But at least five other SA swimmers, four of them based in the US and unable to travel here because of Covid-19 travel issues, have achieved qualifying times and will be in line for selection.

Schoenmake­r, who missed qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 200m breaststro­ke by one-hundredth of a second, has establishe­d herself as a strong medal contender for Tokyo.

World’s third-fastest time

Though the 200m race is her premier event, Schoenmake­r is a contender in the 100m, with the world’s third-fastest time since 2018, courtesy of the 1:05.89 she swam in Stellenbos­ch earlier this year.

The 30.32 50m African record she swam at the start of this gala suggests she can go even faster, though her coach Rocco Meiring wasn’t convinced it would be today.

“She can go faster, I am 100% sure of that. I don’t know if she will go faster here, because she’s coming off what we would call a breakthrou­gh swim. It is difficult to pick yourself up for another one, the body and nervous system need a rest.”

Schoenmake­r was supposed to have a rest day yesterday, but she decided to do a 200m time trial last night to keep busy. She slowed to 2:21.31.

“It’s just to get a feeling of swimming the heats, semis and finals because obviously when you get to the finals, you are tired the whole day, you just lie there doing nothing and get lazy,” Schoenmake­r said.

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