Tatjana Schoenmaker Is South African Sportswoman & Sports Star of Year; Honours For Waddell & Houlie

Tatjana Schoenmaker on her way to writing new lines in World and South African swim history - Photo Courtesy: Patrick B. Kraemer

Tatjana Schoenmaker lifted the South African Sportswoman of Year and the South African Sports Star of the Year honours at the 2019 SA Sports Awards in Johannesburg. There was also a Minister’s Excellence Award for Bloemfontein’s Zane Waddell in recognition of his World 50m backstroke title.

Swimming did well at the all-sports awards beyond Zane Waddell and Tatjana Schoenemakar, whose silver medal over 200m breaststroke at the World Championships in Gwangju back in July marked the first podium place for a South African woman since the global long-course showcase began in 1973.

Michael Houlie, the 2018 Youth Olympics 50m breaststroke champion received the Newcomer of the Year Award, beating fellow swimmer and Youth Olympics medallist Dune Coetzee and cricketer Tumi Sikhukhune for the honour.

There were also nominations but no prize for 2012 Olympic 200 ‘fly champion Chad le Clos, who claimed bronze in the 100 and 200m butterfly in Gwangju, in the Sportsman of the Year Award category, and Schoenmaker’s mentor Rocco Meiring who was up for Coach of the Year but had little chance to lift the prize in a year South Africa celebrated the Rugby World Cup and the excellence of coach Rassie Erasmus.


Tatjana Schoenmaker – a season of smiles – Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Schoenmaker, who was 2018 Newcomer of the Year Award, set an African record of 2:21.79 in semis of the 200m breaststroke in Gwangju, the time shaving 0.23secs off the mark she set at the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games, where she claimed gold in the 100 and 200m battles.

Weeks before claiming silver in the 200m in Gwangju behind Yuliya Efimova, the Russian towing a doping record, Schoenmaker won the 100 and 200m breaststroke double at the World Student Games in Naples.


Zane Waddell – Gold! – Photo Courtesy: Becca Wyant

Shoenemakar’s 100m victory in Italy was delivered via a semi-final blast of 1:06.32, an African record that had taken 20 years to crack. Penny Heyns, the double Olympic champion of 1996, clocked 1:06.52 back for the then World record for gold at the 1999 Pan Pacific Championships.

Waddell was the dark-horse winner of the 50m backstroke at World Championships. He upset the favourites for the crown in 24.43, Russians Evgeny Rylov and Kliment Kolesnikov confined to the minor spoils in 24.49 and 24.51.

Swimming SA’s CEO, Shaun Adriaanse, praised the award winners, saying:

“It is a major feather in the cap for South African swimming to see three of our most promising talents to be honoured at the highest level. We are extremely proud of their efforts, and we hope their success will inspire more swimmers to step onto the podium at an international level. Swimming SA would like to congratulate Tatjana, Michael and Zane on their awards.”

There was no mention of the elephant in South African swimmers: while officials in the “FINA family” travel cost-free and in fine style to global events, athletes and their parents are asked to fund a large part of their own costs to make it to international waters. Houlie has joined the long line of South African swimmers who left home to base themselves in the United States, often through college placement and in search of better training conditions and opportunities than this available in South Africa.


  1. avatar
    Mark Jankelow

    Did Penny Heyns never win world championship titles in her era?

    • avatar
      Craig Lord - Swimming World Editor-in-Chief

      No, Mark, no world champs l/c medals … she got 3 silvers s/c worlds.