Commonwealth Games: Lara van Niekerk Prevails Over Tatjana Schoenmaker in South African 100 Breaststroke Clash

Lara van Niekerk

Commonwealth Games: Lara van Niekerk Prevails Over Tatjana Schoenmaker in South African 100 Breaststroke Clash

Heading into the final of the 100-meter breaststroke at the Commonwealth Games, it was difficult to identify a favorite for the title, except that the athlete would likely come from South Africa. In Lara van Niekerk, the race featured the Commonwealth champ in the 50 breaststroke. In Tatjana Schoenmaker, the final included the Commonwealth titlist in the 200 breaststroke.

Who would prevail during a matchup in the middle?

Racing at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre in Birmingham, it was van Niekerk who rolled to the triumph. Surging to the front of the field off the start, the teenager extended her margin during the back half of the race and touched the wall in 1:05.47. That effort comfortably cleared the silver-medal effort from Schoenmaker, who touched the wall in 1:06.68. The bronze medal went to Australia’s Chelsea Hodges, who finished in 1:07.05.

Van Niekerk’s time is the third-fastest in the world this year and is faster than the mark that Italy’s Benedetta Pilato (1:05.93) posted at the World Championships. South Africa inarguably boasts two of the world’s premier performers in the breaststroke events. Schoenmaker was the silver medalist in the 100 breaststroke at last summer’s Olympic Games in Tokyo, beaten at the finish by American teenager Lydia Jacoby. The veteran decided to pass on the recent World Championships and place her attention on the Commonwealth Games.

Van Niekerk immediately took command of the race, she covered the first 50 meters in 30.26, which built a .66 edge on Schoenmaker. Over the last lap, where Schoenmaker could have made her move, van Niekerk actually had the greater speed. She closed in 35.21, which handed her another half-second over her countrywoman.

With the Olympic Games less than two years away, van Nierkerk has placed herself in the conversation for the gold medal in Paris. A 19-year-old, she has youth on her side and has continually improved her status on the global stage.

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