Tatjana Schoenmaker recently set a new national record for her 200m breaststroke during her trials for the South African Short Course Championships on 25 September.

She won with a time of 2:18.20 at the Curro College Hazeldean performance pool with her winning time resulting in a time of 0.53s faster than the record set by Suzaan van Biljon during the Manchester Short Course World Championships in 2008. PDBY spoke to Schoenmaker’s coach, Rocco Meiring, to learn about her exemplary performance and her plans for the future.

How did Schoenmaker react to her performance?

Tatzi was pleasantly surprised as it was totally unexpected.

What specific instructions should Schoenmaker follow in races to not over exert herself during the first 100m of the race?

The correct pacing during her races are critically important and practising her pacing in her training is an integral part of her training.

How does the altitude of a competition’s location affect the swimming times in longer races? What causes this?

Altitude affects people differently, but in general, swimmers competing in events further than the 50m and 100m sprint events do benefit from racing the 200m to 1500m events at sea-level, where the oxygen content of the atmosphere is significantly higher than at [a greater] altitude.

What previous achievements does Schoenmaker have?

Tatzi now holds all the African and South African long course and short course records, and the FINA [French for Fédération internationale de natation] World Cup series record for the 200m breaststroke. She broke the long course records at the 2018 Commonwealth Games and the 2019 World Championships as well as the short course records at the 2018 SA World Championship trials and the 2020 Regional trials. The FINA World Cup record was broken at the 2019 Tokyo World Cup.

What has Schoenmaker’s greatest achievement been thus far with regards to her swimming career?

[She is a] silver medallist at the 2019 World Championships, the Double Gold medallist at the 2018 Commonwealth Games, the Double Gold medallist at the 2019 World Student Games, and [is the] FINA World Cup Record holder, [as well as] the Gold medallist at Tokyo in 2019.

What is the next big goal that you hope to achieve with Schoenmaker?

My goal as her coach is to continue to support Tatzi, [for her] to enjoy her career as a professional athlete, to continue to improve in her performances in the pool and to assist her to qualify for Team SA for the upcoming Olympic Games in Tokyo.

What else can we expect with regards to Schoenmaker’s future in her competitive swimming career?

Every day is a gift that I [develop] to her benefit into her preparation, and every major competition is a test to determine how successful her preparation was, and where the shortcomings are that we need to address in the following preparation cycle. Having expectations about the future, beyond what we know needs to be done, is a waste of time. We try to control what we can, such as her forward planning and preparation, but we do not waste energy on speculating about future results.

Photo: Reg Caldecott

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