Olympics: Tatjana Schoenmaker Scares 200 Breast World Record Again, Swims 2:19.33 in Semifinals

Jul 29, 2021; Tokyo, Japan; Tatjana Schoenmaker (RSA) in the women's 200m breaststroke semifinals during the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Summer Games at Tokyo Aquatics Centre. Mandatory Credit: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports
Tatjana Schoenmaker -- Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher/USA Today Sports

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Olympics: Tatjana Schoenmaker Scares 200 Breast World Record Again, Swims 2:19.33 in Semifinals

After South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker set an Olympic record in the 100 breast prelims and ended up winning silver in the event, it was evident that she would be extremely difficult to beat for gold in the 200-meter event. Schoenmaker, a 24-year-old first-time Olympian, was the silver medalist in the event at the 2019 World Championships and ranked first in the world coming into the Olympics. And in prelims, she almost got under an eight-year-old world record, swimming a 2:19.16 to miss Rikke Moeller Pedersen’s world record by just five hundredths.

In the semifinal, Schoenmaker almost broke that record again. She pulled away from the field in the second of two semifinal heats, swimming a bit off world-record pace for much of the race before surging the last 50. And Schoenmaker may well have taken down the world record had she finished on a full extension and not a chopped half-stroke. That surely cost her several tenths. But she managed a time of 2:19.33, the third-fastest performance in history, behind Pedersen’s world record and Schoenmaker’s own Olympic record from the prelims.

Meanwhile, 16-year-old Russian Evgeniia Chikunova swam next to Schoenmaker in the second semifinal and roared to a 2:20.57 swim. That moved Chikunova to second in the world rankings and made her the ninth-fastest performer in history in the event. Also excelling in semifinal No. 2 was the USA’s Annie Lazor, who finished third in 2:21.94 and ended up qualifying third for the final. Lazor, who ranks fourth in the world behind Schoenmaker, Chikunova and Great Britain’s Molly Renshaw (2:20.89), is competing in her first Olympics and first Olympic event at age 26.

Meanwhile, it will be a historic final for South Africa as Schoenmaker’s countrywoman Kaylene Corbett won the first semifinal heat and earned the fourth seed for the final in 2:22.08. This 1-4 finish in the semifinals will come just five years after zero South African women competed at the 2016 Olympics. Schoenmaker’s silver medal in the 100 breast was the first Olympic medal by a South African woman since Penny Heyns took bronze in the 100 breast at the 2000 Games. No South African woman has won Olympic gold since Heyns swept the breaststroke events at the 1996 Olympics.

In that first semifinal, the United States’ Lilly King took and early lead before allowing Great Britain’s Molly Renshaw to lead for the middle 100 meters. On the last 50, Renshaw fell off the pace slightly, and King passed her, and then Corbett passed both. King’s time of 2:22.27 qualified her fifth for the final, and Renshaw was seventh in 2:22.70, with her British teammate Abbie Wood just ahead (with her time from the first semifinal) in 2:22.35.

King has one Olympic gold and one bronze in the 100 breast along with two world titles and a world record in that event, and she will have a chance at capturing her first 200-meter medal at a major meet in the 200 breast. She previously finished 12th at the 2016 Olympics, then fourth at the 2017 World Championships, and she was disqualified for a questionable one-hand touch in prelims at the 2019 World Championships.

Belgium’s Fanny Lecluyse earned the last spot in the Olympic final with her 2:23.73.

Finalists:

  1. Tatjana Schoenmaker (South Africa), 2:19.33
  2. Evgeniia Chikunova (Russia), 2:20.57
  3. Annie Lazor (USA), 2:21.94
  4. Kaylene Corbett (South Africa), 2:22.08
  5. Lilly King (USA), 2:22.27
  6. Abbie Wood (Great Britain), 2:22.35
  7. Molly Renshaw (Great Britain), 2:22.70
  8. Fanny Lecluyse (Belgium), 2:23.73

1 comment

  1. avatar
    JS

    This is going to be a really interesting final. The SA girl is swimming so hard, especially in the prelims, and even to a lesser extent in the semifinal. That is a blistering double 200 BR, especially in a slowish pool. I think she has basically telegraphed to the other top swimmers what they may need to do to win and unless she has significantly more in her it is likely she will be 2:20 in the final. I don’t think it’s the smartest swimming she can do, unless she knows she has 2:19.00 in her still.

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