Tatjana, Lara can kick water into opponents’ eyes


They are young, talented and cover quickly in a pool.

Tatjana Schoenmaker and Lara van Niekerk will lead South Africa’s swimming attack at the World Championships in Foekoeoka.

For Schoenmaker, it is a welcome return to the country where she tasted Olympic success in 2021. The 26-year-old swimmer then swam gold and silver in her breaststroke events, while a world record time was also on the menu.

She will want to use the World Championship to build momentum for the next Olympic spectacle in Paris – July 2024 is fast approaching.

“This is undoubtedly a starting block on the way to the Games and it is a wonderful opportunity to compete against swimmers who will also be seen in Paris,” said Schoenmaker.

However, she added that success – or disappointment – in Japan will not necessarily mean a similar result in France.

“As a sport, this is swimming’s biggest championship, but we don’t want to put ourselves under too much pressure. We just want to race in the water and I’m excited to be part of the action!”

In her turn, Van Niekerk will again want to make her mark on the international stage; after all, the 20-year-old Pretoriaran knows exactly how to do it.

In 2022, she collected South Africa’s only medal (bronze in the 50m breaststroke event) at the World Championships in Budapest, while her efforts at the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham were worth two gold medals.

“Last year’s results undoubtedly showed me what I am capable of and it makes me even more excited to rub shoulders with the leading swimmers again,” Van Niekerk said.

Although the nerves are still gnawing before a big event, she believes that experience definitely lends a helping hand.

“I am now more used to swimming against top swimmers. I have also made good friends and that makes the sessions much more fun.”

Yes-no, from Penny Heyns to Tatjana Schoenmaker and Lara van Niekerk: South Africa’s swimming baton is undoubtedly in capable hands.

The swimming championship starts on Sunday.

South Africa’s swimming team to Japan: Aimee Canny, Emma Chelius, Milla Drakopoulos, Trinity Hearne, Michael Houlie, Clayton Jimmie, Rebecca Meder, Righardt Muller, Roland Schoeman, Tatjana Schoenmaker and Lara van Niekerk.