Schoenmaker Closing In On Becoming First South African Female LC World Medalist


After a breaking out last year, South African Tatjana Schoenmaker has carried the momentum over into 2019.

The 22-year-old was a surprise double gold medalist at the Commonwealth Games last April on the Gold Coast, winning the women’s 100 and 200 breaststroke, and earlier this month swept those same two events at the World University Games in Naples.

At WUGs she reset her Continental Record in the 100 breast in a time of 1:06.32, and is seemingly on pace to eclipse that mark in the final of the World Championships.

Schoenmaker qualified fourth out of the prelims in 1:06.76, and then advanced through to the final in fifth in tonight’s semis in 1:06.61.

If she can dip under her time from earlier this month in Italy, she has a great chance to win a medal. Lilly King (1:05.56) and Yuliya Efimova (1:05.66) were the two top qualifiers for the final, and should occupy the top two spots on the podium, but that third spot is largely up for grabs.

If Schoenmaker can earn a medal, she’ll be the first South African woman ever to do so at a Long Course World Championship.

Only two African nations have ever won a medal on the women’s side at the World Championships: Farida Osman won bronze for Egypt two years ago in Budapest in the 50 fly, and Kirsty Coventry won a total of eight medals for Zimbabwe spanning from 2005 to 2009.

At the Short Course Championships, the nation has nine female medals, all in breaststroke events.

Suzaan van Biljon has three medals, one of each color, winning the 2008 title in Manchester in the 200 breast. Sarah Poewe has two golds and three medals total, winning the 50 and 100 in 2000 in Athens, and Penny Heyns won silver in all three distances at the 1999 Championships in Hong Kong.

Reona Aoki (1:06.30) and Martina Carraro (1:06.39) were the other two to finish ahead of Schoenmaker in the semis, and Arianna Castiglioni equalled Carraro’s time out of a swim-off to qualify as well.

Whether she medals or not tomorrow, her form is a positive sign heading into her best event, the 200 breast, where she is seeded fifth after going 2:22.02 last year.

No African nations have earned a medal yet.


  • Swazi: women’s 100m back – Robyn Young, 1:06.96
  • Malagasy: men’s 100m back – Heriniavo Rasolonjatovo, 1:00.87

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tea rex
4 years ago

“At the Short Course Championships, the nation has nine female medals, all in breaststroke events.” Is there something in South African water than combines human and frog genetics???

4 years ago
Reply to  bigNowhere
4 years ago

James was referring to “long course” – we’ll update to make that more clear.

Reply to  bigNowhere
4 years ago

I’m not sure Penny ever won a World Champs Medal (as crazy as that may seem!) – but should probably add ‘longcourse’ to the title and article somewhere due to : having won a SCM World Championship

Reply to  James Sutherland
4 years ago

Must admit I’m surprised a double Olympic champion Heyns didn’t win a World Championship medal at LCM, and only a bronze at Commies.

About James Sutherland

James Sutherland

James swam five years at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, specializing in the 200 free, back and IM. He finished up his collegiate swimming career in 2018, graduating with a bachelor's degree in economics. In 2019 he completed his graduate degree in sports journalism. Prior to going to Laurentian, James swam …

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