Schoenmaker set to qualify for the Paris Olympics at SA Champs

aquatics12 April 2023 12:25
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Tatjana Schoenmaker © Gallo Images

The next few days during the South African Swimming Championships in Gqeberha will be about something other than setting records or swimming best times for top swimmers.

Their focus will be to qualify for the 2024 Paris Olympic Games.

Considering the times Tatjana Schoenmaker swam during the Lausanne Swim Cup Gala in February, she won't have too many difficulties qualifying for Paris. She qualified to compete in all three breaststroke events at the World Championships (17 June to 3 July in Hungary).

The swimmer won the 200m breaststroke in Lausanne swimming a time of 2:24:45. It is only 0.54s off the Olympic standard.

Schoenmaker was second in the 100m breaststroke, clocking a time of 1:06.97. To qualify, she only needs to swim 0.15s faster this afternoon (12 April) in the final. She was also second in the 50m breaststroke at 31.05s.

Schoenmaker will also compete in the 200m and 400m freestyle events and the 200m individual medley at the national champs.

South Africa's Sportsman of the Year, Pieter Coetzé, is the other Tuks swimmer with a real chance to qualify for the Paris Games. He came close to doing so in Durban, clocking times of 53.92s in the 100m backstroke and 1:58.34 in the 200m-backstroke. It meant that over 100m, Coetzé missed out by 0.18s and over 200 metres by 0.23s.

Although Coetze has qualified for the World Champs, it is not a done deal that he will be competing. The dates of the championships clash with that of his matric exams. Tuks's head coach, Rocco Meiring, believes doing well in the exams is more important than swimming fast times this year.

"If Pieter can qualify for the Olympic Games, we have more than a year to ensure he is at his best in Paris."

For the same reason, Meiring will not be worried if Kaylene Corbett, bronze medallist at last year's Commonwealth Games, is not at the moment swimming world-class times.

"Kaylene is busy with the final year of the BEd degree. It is hectic. She is expected to do 14 weeks of hands-on teaching in a classroom.

In between, she needs to attend classes and find time to study. It is important to her to get her degree. This means Kaylene will compete when she has time, but don't expect her to be at her best. But being Kaylene, there is always a chance that she could surprise many."

Erin Gallagher, a silver medallist at last year's Commonwealth Games, is another Tuks swimmer battling to find enough hours in a day to do what she needs to do.

The 24-year-old who studies BSc Geography and Environmental Science is a Golden Key student. In layperson's terms, it boils down to being one of the top students in the world.

During the Grand Prix Meeting in Durban, Gallagher swam B-qualifying times for the World Champs in the 50m-butterfly (26.87s), the 100m-butterfly (59.59s) and the 100m-freestyle (55.97s).