‘Best race ever’ for Tatjana Schoenmaker as Kaylene Corbett now wants to rock ’n roll in 200m breaststroke
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CAPE TOWN – Tatjana Schoenmaker said she still felt the nerves when stepping up for the women’s 200m breaststroke heat at the Tokyo Olympics on Wednesday, but those worries were blown away by her “best race ever” to advance to the semi-finals.
The 24-year-old South African, who has already claimed a silver medal in the 100m breaststroke, pulled out a new Olympic record of 2 minutes 19.16 seconds (2:19.16) to march into the next round on Thursday.
She almost broke the world record of 2:19.11, set by Rikke Moller Pedersen of Denmark in 2013, but fell just short in the end.
“I cannot complain about that race. It was honestly the best race ever, by far! I dropped another second today, so very happy about that,” said Schoenmaker, whose previous best was 2:20.17.
“Obviously I was also a bit nervous, after coming from the 100. It was a whole extra hundred, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel. Then I heard my coach screaming, and I was like, ‘Am I going to slow?’. It’s so hard – I never know. So ja, I’m very happy with that race.”
She mentioned Kaylene Corbett, another South African who set a new personal best of 2:22.48 to emerge victorious in her heat, as being an inspiration for her own quick time.
“I think I was motivated after seeing my teammate drop so many seconds and swim a massive PB, and she made the semis ranked fourth!” Schoenmaker said.
“So, she must be over the moon, and I was just scared that that excitement was making me tired. But I just had focus, and I knew that if she was able to have a good race, I probably could have a good race as well.”
An excited 22-year-old Corbett expressed her delight by finally lowering her previous best time of 2:24.18 by nearly two seconds.
“I had a hard two years, just not swimming a personal best – which is long for us – and not getting close to it… I’ve been one second off it,” she said.
“So, I’ve been quite discouraged every now and then. But swimming a personal best is all I wanted coming here.
“Just watching all my friends and seeing the emotion at the Olympics is what I thought and wanted out of all of this whole experience. Now I’m just having fun. I came in here to try and swim a personal best, and that’s what I’ve done. Now it’s just time to rock and roll, and just have fun.”
Corbett will contest the first semi-final on Thursday at 4.54am SA time, with Schoenmaker in the second race at 5.01am.
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