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SA's new breaststroke queen hunts a second gold

08 April 2018 - 15:24 By David Isaacson
Tatjana Schoenmaker during the Medal Ceremony of the Women's 200m Breaststroke Final on day 3 of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast Aquatic Centre on April 07, 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia.
Tatjana Schoenmaker during the Medal Ceremony of the Women's 200m Breaststroke Final on day 3 of the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games at Gold Coast Aquatic Centre on April 07, 2018 in Gold Coast, Australia.
Image: Roger Sedres/Gallo Images

New breaststroke queen Tatjana Schoenmaker could help make it rain gold for Team South Africa on Monday as she bids for her second Commonwealth Games crown.

The 20-year-old Tuks student‚ the 200m champion‚ clocked 1min 06.65sec in the 100m breaststroke semifinals on Sunday night to take pole position in that race.

Schoenmaker will probably be one of SA’s two best golden bets on the day‚ Chad Le Clos being the other in the 100m butterfly (1.59pm SA time on Monday).

His 52.56 was fourth quickest in the 100m ’fly semifinals‚ behind Australians Grant Irvine (51.87) and David Morgan (52.48) and England’s James Guy (52.34)‚ but the final will be a different story.

The country — with four golds after the first four days of competition — has several other opportunities‚ although most are tough‚ if not close to impossible.

Akani Simbine and Henricho Bruintjies are in the 100m final where they will have to negotiate Jamaica’s Yohan Blake‚ Englishman Adam Gemili and Kemar Hyman of Cayman Islands (2.15pm SA time).

Dyan Buis is SA’s best chance in the T38 category 100m final (11.10am) and Orazio Cremona will be aiming for the podium in the shot put (12.25pm).

In lawn bowls‚ the women’s four‚ skipped by Elma Davis‚ will have a difficult time to inflict a first defeat on the Australian outfit‚ the reigning world champions (4.15am).

Cameron van der Burgh has a shot in the 50m breaststroke‚ where he is seeking his third consecutive Games crown (1.07pm).

But he will need a Herculean effort to upstage the seemingly unbeatable Englishman Adam Peaty. “I’m feeling confident‚” Van der Burgh said after winning his semifinal in 26.95sec‚ second to Peaty’s 26.49 Games record.

“The most important thing is to come out and give your best performance. That’s all you can do‚” added the veteran‚ who will have two other SA swimmers in his race‚ Cape Town matric pupil Michael Houlie and Brad Tandy.

Schoenmaker was happy with her time‚ but refused to be drawn on golden ambitions in the final (1.12pm).

“I don’t think too much about the medal. I just want to get good times. I was aiming for 1:06 high so I’m close a 1:06-middle‚ I was pretty happy with that.”

Schoenmaker is not far off Penny Heyns’s last remaining African record‚ the 1:06.52 she set at the height of her powers in Australia in 1999.

“I want to try go for it‚ but if it doesn’t come‚ that’s also okay‚” said Schoenmaker‚ who could be the first local female to bag a breaststroke double at a championship since Heyns at the 1996 Olympics.

She pointed out she hadn’t felt this good in competition for a while. “I think it just all came together.”

Le Clos picked up one of SA’s two medals of the day on Sunday when he finished joint second in a pulsating 100m freestyle contest.

Bowler Colleen Piketh took the other‚ a bronze in the women’s singles‚ the same medal she won last time around at Glasgow 2014.

This was the first day of the Games that Team SA failed to land a gold‚ and it showed on the medals table as they slipped from fifth overnight to seventh‚ below the same six nations that were above them after Glasgow 2014 — Australia‚ England‚ Canada‚ India‚ Scotland and New Zealand.

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