Tatjana Schoenmaker. Picture: REUTERS
Tatjana Schoenmaker. Picture: REUTERS

Tatjana Schoenmaker will make history at the world championships in Korea on Tuesday if she can make the podium in the 100m breaststroke final.

But she will most probably have to break her own national record to become the first SA woman to make a podium at a world championship gala in an Olympic-sized 50m pool.

The double Commonwealth Games champion was second in her semifinal in Gwangju on Monday‚ qualifying fifth-fastest for the eight-lane final.

Veteran Russian Yuliya Efimova won Schoenmaker’s semifinal in the best time of the night‚ 1min 05.56sec‚ with the South African touching in 1:06.61.

US world record-holder Lilly King won the other semifinal in 1:05.66‚ ahead of Japan’s Reona Aoki (1:06.30) and Martina Carraro of Italy (1:06.39).

Schoenmaker’s SA mark is the 1:06.32 she clocked en route to the World Student Games gold.

Schoenmaker‚ whose favourite race is the 200m‚ was third into the turn‚ and she slipped into fourth place before powering back to see off China’s Jingyao Yu‚ Jessica Hansen of Australia and Jamaican sprint queen Alia Atkinson.

“It felt like I was dying‚” she said with a laugh. “I’m happy. If I’m in the final I have a chance‚” Schoenmaker added‚ who is on a steep learning curve at her maiden world championships.

“I’ll have a morning rest so hopefully that’ll help me a bit more — and just to trust my own stroke.

“Obviously it’s hard racing these fast people. You see them sprinting next to you and you’re, ‘Am I behind?’ So I think just trusting in yourself‚ racing your own race [is important].”

A few SA women have come close to silverware at the world championships‚ and ironically they were all breaststrokers.

Suzaan van Biljon and Sarah Poewe both ended fourth‚ in 2007 and 2001‚ while an off-the-boil Penny Heyns managed only a fifth spot in 1998.

Chad Le Clos‚ one of SA’s most prolific world championship medal-winners‚ rolls into action in the 200m butterfly on Tuesday.

He is the defending champion in that event‚ but he has been battling a groin hernia that might require surgery after the world championships.


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