Tatjana Schoenmaker proved you can't keep a "good girl down" last night when she won the 100m-breaststroke in a time of 1:05.89 during the SA National Aquatic Championships in Gqeberha.
Her winning time means she has qualified for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games as well as this year's World Championships in Japan. For now, Schoenmaker's time is also the fastest in the world in the 100m-breaststroke.
It is the first time in two years that the Tuks swimmer has won the title. Last year Lara van Niekerk dominated the event, winning the 100m breaststroke at the national championships and the gold at the Birmingham Commonwealth Games. Van Niekerk also ended up being South Africa's Sportswomen of the Year.
There was some speculation that Schoenmaker might only focus on the 200m-breaststroke. But what they did not consider was Schoenmaker's never say die attitude. Quitting is never an option for her. That became clear when she and Van Niekerk duelled it out over 100 metres last night. For the first 50 metres, they were swimming shoulder to shoulder. But the Tuks swimmer proved to be stronger over the race's latter stages.
"It was never about the title. If I came second or last – it was about those personal goals I set for myself," said a thrilled Schoenmaker.
"It is challenging to come back from a 1:04.8 [at the Olympics in Tokyo] and then never breaking a 1:06, so it was really tough."
Speaking about the great depth in South African women's breaststroke, Schoenmaker added: "I think we have such an amazing breaststroke group… it's always nice to have world-class swimmers with you in the race.
"We're also all from NTS [Northern Gauteng], so there's never a competition where you're not stepping up against world-class swimmers. That's challenging on the mental side because you're not always feeling great, but it's such a good challenge to push yourself every time you swim."
Tuks's Kaylene Corbett finished third in the 100m-breaststroke swimming 1:08.57. It means she has swam a B-qualifying standard for the World Champs.
There is no stopping the 18-year Pieter Coetzé (Tuks). The youngster powered to a new national and continental record in the 100m backstroke, swimming 52.78s. It is the second time he has bettered the record in less than a year. During last year's Junior World Championships in Peru, he swam 52.95s. With last night’s winning time he qualified for the 2024 Paris Games.
Coetzé's performance is actually no surprise. He is on record saying his desire is to win every time he competes. If he does not do so, he at least wants the satisfaction of having set a new personal best time. He is under no illusion as to what it will take to do so. It will boil down to long and hard hours in and out of the pool. The Tuks swimmer is up to the challenge.
Other Tuks swimmers who impressed are Dune Coetzee (2nd 200m freestyle - 1:59.05), Erin Gallagher (3rd -200m-freestyle - 1:59.50), Hanna Pearse (3rd in 100m-backstroke - 1:02.64), Mathew Randle (1st 100m-breaststroke - 1:01.35), Andrew Ross (3rd 200m-freestyle - 1:50.81). All of them swam World B-qualifying times.