Tatjana Schoenmaker Secures Spot in World Champs 100m Breaststroke Final

Tatjana Schoenmaker safely negotiated her way through to the 100m breaststroke final on the second day of swimming at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan, while her young teammate Lara van Niekerk missed out in the heats on Monday, 24 July 2023.

Taking on an impressively strong field, Schoenmaker finished second in her semifinal in 1:05.53 to qualify third fastest for Tuesday’s final.

Lithuanian 2012 Olympic champion Ruta Meilutytė qualified fastest for the final in 1:05.09, having swum a blisteringly quick 1:04.67 in the morning heats.

Speaking about her semifinal performance, a thrilled Schoenmaker said: “I think because I had such a good swim in the morning I was surprised, I felt good, I was obviously hoping I had a good one, but I think it just took the pressure off [in the semifinal] as well.

“It was my fastest time since the Olympics as well, so I was very happy with that, that just meant I could enjoy the racing in the semi and the final because I got the time already in the heats, my best time so far in terms of the season.”

Speaking about Tuesday’s final, Schoenmaker added: “I could work on a few little things that I can change in the final in terms of the small technical things so there’s definitely space for improvement, and then it’s just having a good rest and resting well for tomorrow night.”

Earlier in the day Schoenmaker had finished second in her heat in a time of 1:05.56 to qualify third fastest for the semifinals. But Van Niekerk’s time of 1:07.03 in the same heat, well off the 1:05.47 she swam on her way to Commonwealth Games gold in the event last year, was not quick enough to see her through as she finished 18th overall.

The 20-year-old will be back in action in the 50m breaststroke, the event in which she claimed South Africa’s only medal of the 2022 World Championships in Budapest.

Van Niekerk’s coach Eugene de Ponte said: “I was not surprised at how fast the heats were for the 100 this morning.

“This is arguably the strongest field of breaststroke women ever at a world champs. The depth is amazing and with swimmers like Lara and Anna Elendt from Germany – last year’s silver medallist in the 100 – both narrowly missing out on semis, that just shows how strong the field is.

“Lara was disappointed, but we know where we went wrong and what we need to correct with a year now before Paris, and we now have the time to make those changes.

“Nothing will change for our approach to the 50, we always knew that was our main target here and we will go into the event on the weekend, give our best and see what happens.”

Meanwhile, other South Africans in action on Tuesday were Milla Drakopoulos, who finished sixth in her 100m backstroke heat in a time of 1:02.77 to place 35th overall.

Swimming action continues on Tuesday with Aimee Canny in the women’s 200m freestyle, while Schoenmaker will contest the 100m breaststroke final in the evening session.

Photo 1 Caption: Tatjana Schoenmaker safely negotiated her way through to the 100m breaststroke final on the second day of swimming at the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan on Monday, 24 July 2023. Photo: Anton Geyser / Supplied

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