Commonwealth Games: Tatjana Schoenmaker Pulls Away From Jenna Strauch to Defend 200 Breast Gold

Tatjana Schoenmaker
Tatjana Schoenmaker -- Photo Courtesy: Swimming South Africa

Commonwealth Games: Tatjana Schoenmaker Pulls Away From Jenna Strauch to Defend 200 Breast Gold 

A year after posting one of the finest swims of the Tokyo Olympics and becoming just the third woman ever from South Africa to win Olympic gold in swimming, Tatjana Schoenmaker is back in the waters of major competition at the Commonwealth Games. It was at this competition four years ago on the Gold Coast that Schoenmaker made her international racing debut, and she emerged with gold in the 100 and 200 breaststroke. Now, Schoenmaker is the Olympic champion in the 200 breast and the only woman to ever go under 2:19, having lowered Rikke Moeller Pedersen’s eight-year-old standard in her gold-medal-winning swim last year.

Schoenmaker qualified first for the Commonwealth Games final of the 200 breast by more than three seconds in prelims with a mark of 2:21.76, making her the third-fastest swimmer in the world for 2022 behind Americans Lilly King and Kate Douglass. In the final, she faced off against Jenna Strauch, the Aussie who won silver in the 200 breast at this year’s World Championships. Schoenmaker was among the many elite swimmers to skip this year’s Worlds in Budapest, her sights set on these Commonwealth Games.

Schoenmaker built a slight edge over Strauch by the halfway point, although she was already more than seven tenths off her world-record pace, and the lead grew from there. The 25-year-old South African finished in 2:21.92, while Strauch touched in 2:23.65 to hold off the second South African, Kaylene Corbett, for silver. Corbett came in at 2:23.67, a time which ranks her No. 8 in the world this year.

Schoenmaker, Corbett and fellow South African Lara Van Niekerk, who won the 50 breast Commonwealth gold Saturday after taking bronze in the event at the World Championships, have all become world-class breaststrokers, which is especially striking considering that South Africa sent zero female swimmers to the 2016 Olympics in Rio just six years ago. Now, South Africa will be poised for a sweep of breaststroke golds with Schoenmaker entering the 100 breast as the strong favorite after winning Olympic silver in the event last year.