Swimming at Olympics: Tatjana sets world record, gives South Africa its first gold in Tokyo

Tatjana Schoenmaker romped home with a stunning time of 2:18.95 to set a new world record in the women’s 200m breaststroke event. Lilly King and Annie Lazor completed the podium.

Tatjana Schoenmaker of Team South Africa wins the women’s 200m breaststroke final with a new world record at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games on Friday.   -  Getty Images

On a day when Americans didn’t capture a single gold medal in swimming, the emotions of South African Tatjana Schoenmaker could hardly be contained. The 24-year-old from Johannesburg was virtually in tears after producing a stunning a new world record time in the women’s 200m breaststroke at the Tokyo aquatics centre on Frida to give South Africa its first gold medal in Tokyo.

Tatjana, who won the silver medal in the 100m breaststroke on Tuesday, was in a zone of her own as she attacked the clock with her powerful strokes and got into the lead midway through the swim. The South African, who was a silver medallist in the same event in Gwangju in 2019, had lagged behind the American favourite Lily King who was well within a world record pace before losing ground.

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Tatjana grabbed the opening with welcome arms and held on to her momentum through the remaining part of the race and delightfully romped home an easy winner at a stunning time of 2:18.95, which erased the world record of 2:19.11 set by Denmark’s Rikke Moller Pederson in 2013. The South African broke out into tears even as King and her team-mate Annie Lazor joined together to congratulate the proud winner. King took silver in 2:19.92 and Lazor captured the bronze at 2:20.84.

Emma Mckeon of Australia celebrates after winning the gold medal in the women's 100-meter freestyle final at the 2020 Summer Olympics on Friday.   -  AP


Australian Emma McKeon was another great winner of the day, powering herself to the gold medal in the women’s 100m freestyle with a new Games record time of 51.96 from a field that included the reigning world record holder Sarah Sjoestroem in the fray. However, the supremacy of the 27-year-old Aussie was never in doubt as she took to the lead right at the start and stroked her way back to the wall brilliantly.

Emma established her stranglehold right from the gun and eventually won with a breathtaking 0.31s lead over Hong Kong’s Bernadette Siobhan Haughey, who finished in the same place in the 200m freestyle on Wednesday. Cate Campbell, also from Australia, completed the medal line-up clocking 52.52, while Sjoestroem finished way behind in the fifth place.

Emma is the third member in her family to represent Australia at the Games. Her brother, David, competed in the 2012 London Olympics and Rio 2016. Her father, Ron, participated in Moscow 1980 and Los Angeles 1984.

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Emma is also third Australian to win the event after the legendary Dawn Fraser (Melbourne 1956, Rome 1960 and Tokyo 1964) and Jodie Henry (Athens 2004).

It was Emma’s fourth medal at this Games, having been part of the world record-breaking quartet in the 4x100m freestyle relay and securing bronze medals in the 100m butterfly and the 4x200m freestyle relay.

China’s Shun Wang took the existing Asian record in his stride as he took the men’s 200m individual medley gold after being involved in a nail-biting finish that involved Great Britain’s Duncan Scott and Switzerland’s Jeremy Desplanches. The 27-year-okd Chinese clocked 1:55.00 as he improved upon his third position in the same event in Rio four years ago. Scott was close behind at 1:55.28 while Desplanches was timed at 1:56.17.

For the first time in six Olympic cycles, the 200m backstroke final failed to have an American at the top of the podium as ROC’s Evgeny Rylov produced an immense swim in the final of the event, just as he had dominated the 100m on Tuesday. The 24-year-old Rylov finished in a new Olympic record time of 1:53.27. American Ryan Murphy and Great Britain’s Luke Greenback completed the podium.

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