Swimming World Magazine Announces 2018 African Swimmers of the Year

Each year Swimming World Magazine selects the top male and female swimmers from the following regions: Africa, the Pacific Rim, Europe, the Americas, and World.

Starting today, Swimming World will begin announcing the top athletes in each region leading up to the announcement of the Male and Female World Swimmer of the Year on December 1st.  The final announcement will coincide with the official release of the December Swimming World Magazine.  To download and read previous “Swimmers of the Year”, visit the Swimming World Vault and download past December issues.

Male African Swimmer of the Year: Chad le Clos

chad-le-clos-200-fly-victory-sa-nationals

Photo Courtesy: Anesh Debiky

The undisputed king of men’s butterfly at the 2018 Commonwealth Games in the Gold Coast, Australia was unquestionably Chad le Clos of South Africa. He dominated the discipline, establishing Commonwealth Games records in the 100 and 200 meter fly (50.65, 1:54.00—both of which ranked third in the world in 2018).

Though butterfly is le Clos’ obvious forte, his freestyle talent also is routinely among the best in the world. He placed second in the 100 free at the Commonwealth Games, tying for silver with Australian sprinter Kyle Chalmers (48.15). The South African superstar also helped his country’s 4×100 medley relay to a bronze medal. Le Clos came away from the Gold Coast with a heavy haul of three golds, one silver and one bronze. His victory in the 200 fly was his third straight title in the event at the Commonwealth Games—a feat no other man in history has accomplished.

At 18, le Clos shocked himself and the world when he defeated his swimming hero Michael Phelps in the 200 fly at the 2012 London Games by 3-hundredths of a second. Le Clos went on to take silver to Phelps in the 100 fly. The Games proved a tremendous launching pad for the phenom’s career. Now 26, he has racked up 51 international medals since 2011 between the Olympics, Commonwealth Games, World Championships (SC and LC), the African Games and the African Championships.

Le Clos may have been disappointed with his showing in Rio, but his two silvers in the 200 free and 100 fly brought his overall medal total to four, making him South Africa’s most decorated Olympian.

His performances at the 2018 Commonwealth Games cemented him in history as the most successful Commonwealth swimmer of all time. His three gold, one silver and one bronze medal brought his total Commonwealth medal tally to
17.

Female African Swimmer of the Year: Tatjana Schoenmaker

DURBAN, SOUTH AFRICA - APRIL 15: Tatjana Schoenmaker during the finals session 200m breaststroke for women on day 6 of the SA National Aquatic Championships and Olympic Trials on April 15 , 2016 at the Kings Park Aquatic Center pool in Durban, South Africa. Photo Credit / Anesh Debiky/Swim SA

Photo Courtesy: Anesh Debiky/Swimming South Africa

Tatjana Schoenmaker arrived in Australia this April for the Commonwealth Games as a virtually unknown 20-year-old. She left the Gold Coast with two gold medals, three African records and recognition as one of the best breaststrokers in the world.

Before the Commonwealth Games, Schoenmaker’s international accomplishments included winning a silver medal in the 200 meter breast at the 2017 World University Games. She also helped South Africa set a short course African record in the women’s 4×50 medley relay (1:52.16) in 2014 at the World Championships in Doha, Qatar.

A year ago, she finished runner-up in the 2017 African Swimmer of the Year vote, behind unanimous winner, Farida Osman of Egypt. This year, though, it’s Schoenmaker who reigns as the top female swimmer on the continent with a unanimous vote of her own.

In her first event of the Commonwealth Games, she finished just off the podium in fourth in the 50 breast, but her 30.82 set an African record. The next day, she stormed the field in the 200 breast, placing first by more than a second. Her time of 2:22.02 knocked more than two-and-a-half seconds off her previous best (2:24.61) and smashed Suzaan van Biljon’s African record of 2:23.21, set at the 2012 Olympics. Schoenmaker ended the year ranked fourth in the world in the event, only 1.3 seconds off Russia’s Yulia Efimova’s top time of 2:20.72.

Two days later in the 100 breast final, she captured her second gold medal, this time by 6-tenths of a second. Her final time of 1:06.41 ended up as the 10th-best time globally for 2018. She also broke her third African record in that race, taking down the mark of 1:06.52 set by eventual Olympic gold medalist Penny Heyns in 1999.

Later in the year in August, a month after her 21st birthday, Schoenmaker added a short course meters African record to her resumé with a 1:05.12 in the 100 breast at the South African Championships.

While South Africa’s male swimmers have achieved plenty of international success since the country’s readmission to international sports in 1994, only a few of its female swimmers have reached that level. In fact, Schoenmaker is the first South African woman to win gold at the Commonwealth Games during that time period.

1 Comment

1 comment

  1. avatar
    Mark J

    Congratulations to Chad, and Tatjana; good choices.
    I noticed an error in Chad’s age. You mentioned him being 18 when
    he won the 200 Fly in London. He was actually 20.
    Thank you …

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Author: Taylor Brien

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Taylor Brien is the Assistant Operations Manager and a staff writer at Swimming World. A native of Bettendorf, IA and a 2015 graduate of Illinois College, she has covered a variety of events since joining the SW team in 2015, including the NCAA Championships, World Championships, Olympic Trials, and 2016 Rio Olympic Games.

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