Tatjana Schoenmaker's coach and Swimming SA president appeal for more sponsorship

09 August 2021 - 14:30 By tiisetso malepa
Olympics gold medallist Tatjana Schoenmaker with sports minister Nathi Mthethwa and her coach Rocco Meiring on August 2 2021 at OR Tambo International Airport.
Olympics gold medallist Tatjana Schoenmaker with sports minister Nathi Mthethwa and her coach Rocco Meiring on August 2 2021 at OR Tambo International Airport.
Image: Muzi Ntombela/BackapagePix

As Tokyo doused its Olympic flame at the weekend and nations who participated at the global showpiece arrive back in their respective countries to take stock of what went wrong or right‚ Swimming SA‚ the only federation that produced a gold medal‚ appealed to the corporate world for more financial support.

Though Team SA had their worst Olympics campaign since the Beijing Games in 2008‚ swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker and surfer Bianca Buitendag offered a ray of light by accounting for their three-medal haul.

Schoenmaker and Buitendag won their silvers on the same day before the swimmer triumphed in the 200m breaststroke to claim Team SA’s first gold medal a few days later.

Schoenmaker won the 200m breaststroke in a world record-breaking time of 2 min 18.95 seconds to beat the previous record of 2 min 19.11 that was set by Denmark’s Rikke Moller Pedersen eight years ago.

“By the way‚ the world record cost Denmark in the region of R13m of support behind the gold at world champs in the previous world record‚” said Schoenmaker’s coach Rocco Meiring.

“That is just the sort of investment that is needed to get the athletes to get to the top.”

Team SA sent a staggering record-breaking number of 187 athletes but participated in only 19 out of the 33 sporting codes played at the Games and Meiring said SA‚ and swimming in particular‚ needs a change of direction of some sorts.

“There were many lessons learnt in these Covid times and talking to other international coaches at the Games‚ we are going to have to seriously have a rethink of how we do things in swimming in SA.

“We will have to have financial support‚ there is no question about that. It is not going to get easier. It is going to get much more difficult in the years to come‚” Meiring said.

Meiring said he is determined to make Schoenmaker even faster at the next Olympics in Paris in 2024.

“People are going to be even faster and better in Paris and Tatjana can go faster. As long as she is with me‚ I will try and make her faster.”

Swimming SA president Alan Fritz echoed Meiring’s sentiment and called on the corporate world to offer more financial support to the athletes‚ swimming in particular.

“We need more sponsorship from corporate SA to make the athletes’ dreams come true‚” said Fritz.

“We are making a plea to any corporate organisations to support us because without investment we cannot achieve what we want to achieve with our athletes.”

While it was a given that Team SA would not match its Rio 2016 bounty of 10 medals‚ the one gold and two silvers in Tokyo surpass the two silvers at Barcelona 1992‚ and the single silver of Beijing 2008.

Thanks to Schoenmaker's gold‚ the Tokyo Games also rank higher than the five medals (two silver‚ three bronze) of Sydney 2000.

As reported in the Sunday Times this week‚ Team SA has averaged five medals per showpiece in the seven Games from Barcelona 1992 to Rio 2016‚ and if that is used as a yardstick‚ then the Tokyo Games have been disappointing.

SA has won 38 medals since readmission at Barcelona 1992.

Schoenmaker arrived back in the country last week amid pomp and ceremony‚ but there was no financial commitment from the authorities to reward the athletes who have won.

In the last Games in Rio in 2016‚ a R500‚000 carrot was dangled in front of athletes who won gold‚ R250‚000 for silver and R100‚000 for bronze. But it appears there will be no such sweeteners for Schoenmaker and Buitendag.

“I think in due time the public, the athletes and everyone else will be informed of such arrangements‚” said Sascoc vice-president Lwandile Simelane when asked if Schoenmaker and Buitendag will get a financial reward.

Sports minister Nathi Mthethwa‚ who sat next to Schoenmaker and Simelane‚ also shrugged off the question about financial rewards.

“Likewise‚” said Mthethwa echoing Simelane’s sentiment.

Sascoc has since been quoted by the City Press on Sunday as saying it has a lack of funds.