Schoenmaker surprised by fastest 200m breaststroke time since Tokyo Olympics

aquatics19 December 2023 16:34
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Tatjana Schoenmaker © World Aquatics

Four South African swimmers achieved qualifying times at the World Aquatics Championships trials held in Durban from 14-18 December.

Tatjana Schoenmaker led the way, swimming qualifying times in both the prelims and finals of the 50, 100 and 200m breaststroke – achieving the latter in her fastest time since breaking the world record to claim Olympic gold in Tokyo in 2021.

Schoenmaker swam a speedy 2:20.35 in the heats and followed that up with a time of 2:20.30 in the final. That time ranks her top in the world this season.

The 26-year-old also achieved two qualifying times in the 100m breaststroke (1:06.71 and 1:06.10) and in the 50m breaststroke (30.62 and 30.90).

“I’m very happy. I swam my fastest time since the Olympics so that was very unexpected,” said Schoenmaker.

“But I’m feeling good. Sometimes you feel good and the results aren’t the same so I’m just glad that the results and the way I feel are matching,” she added.

Joining Schoenmaker in qualifying in the longer event was training partner Kaylene Corbett who swam 2:25.12 in the 200m breaststroke final.

Also pleased with his performance in Durban was four-time Olympic medallist Chad le Clos who achieved World Championships qualification times in both the 100m butterfly (51.56) and the 200m butterfly (1:56.65).

“I’m very happy. It’s great to be back in Durban, that’s what I’ve been saying all week. There’s a great crowd here and it’s really nice to be back home,” said the 2012 Olympic champion. “This is where I grew up racing so it’s a very special place for me to be – at King’s Park… I’m happy to be back racing and back on top and it’s good for the kids to see all the top guys coming out so. It’s really amazing so I’m very happy.”

The other swimmer to achieve double qualification in Durban was Commonwealth Games silver medallist Erin Gallagher with her victories in the 50m butterfly (26.08) and the 100m butterfly (58.11).

Still in the hunt for qualification times but nevertheless pleased with their swims in Durban were Clayton Jimmie and Olympic semifinalist Emma Chelius – who are both eyeing places on the Olympic team to Paris next year.

“I’ve put in the work and trust the process so I’m happy with my results in the 50 free,” said Jimmie.

“I’ve been swimming some fast times up in Pretoria… so that adds major confidence going into preparations for the Olympics. Our coach says our performance now in December determines our performance in April [for Olympic trials] so I’m really looking forward to the next four months,” he said.

Chelius added: “I was hoping for a slightly faster time [in the 50m freestyle] but I think it’s a good benchmark for where we’re at at the moment and nice to finish off the year with some nice, good quality racing.

“It was so nice to have everyone around me – a really strong field for the girls. This definitely gives me a lot of confidence. It’s always nice to go through a solid block of training and then taper down and see what we can put together. It’s also really good feedback for what we need to work on in the Olympic year so we’ll keep building towards that.”

Meanwhile, several other swimmers have also achieved World Championships qualifying times at various meets around the world.

Swimming South Africa are due to announce the team selected to compete at the 11-18 February event in Doha early next year.

List of qualifiers achieved at the World Championships trials in Durban from 14-18 December 2023:

Tatjana Schoenmaker: 50m breaststroke (Prelims – 30.62, Final – 30.90), 100m breaststroke: (Prelims – 1:06.71, Final – 1:06.10), 200m breaststroke (Prelims – 2:20.35, Final – 2:20.30)

Kaylene Corbett: 200m breaststroke (Final – 2:25.12)

Erin Gallagher: 50 butterfly (Final – 26.08), 100m butterfly (Final – 58.11)

Chad le Clos: 100m butterfly (Final – 51.56), 200m butterfly (Final – 1:56.65)