SA team return from Japan with two swimming medals, water polo win and Olympic diving spot

South Africa’s team are returning from the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan with two medals – both won by swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker. The Olympic champion added the 200m... Read more
SA team return from Japan with two swimming medals, water polo win and Olympic diving spot

South Africa’s team are returning from the World Aquatics Championships in Fukuoka, Japan with two medals – both won by swimmer Tatjana Schoenmaker.

The Olympic champion added the 200m breaststroke world title to her collection while also claiming silver in the 100m breaststroke in Fukuoka.

Lara van Niekerk was the only other South African to reach a final at the championships, finishing fourth in the 50m breaststroke, while Rebecca Meder put in a promising performance in the 200m individual medley, setting a new South African record in the event on her way to the semifinals.

Speaking after the championships came to an end, Schoenmaker’s coach Rocco Meiring said: “Tatjana raced this worlds to see where she was at this stage of her preparation [for the Paris Olympics].

“This was also an opportunity to race the new breaststrokers that broke onto the international scene since the Tokyo Olympics. Tatjana and I now have a better idea of what she needs to work on.

“I’m very happy for Tatz that she won a world title in the 200m. The silver in the 100m was a scrappy race for all of them, except for Ruta [Meilutytė] who got very close to the world record.

“Tatjana’s last 25m in the 100m was very good, but there is a lot of work to be done in the coming months.”

Speaking about the rest of the swimming team, Meiring added: “The SA team was a good blend of experienced swimmers and new young talent. The team experienced that the standard and depth of this world champs was of the highest standard in many years… once again, a sign of how much and how fast the world moves on the continuous path of high performance.”

Meanwhile, in diving, Julia Vincent secured an all-important Olympic spot for South Africa by reaching the finals of both the 1m and 3m springboard events. The two-time Olympian finished 11th overall in the 1m event and 10th in the 3m event.

Commenting after the diving events came to an end, she said: “This week has been incredible. I feel so encouraged by my results and I’m excited to get back to work and see what else could be possible in the future.

“I’ve been working really hard and it’s encouraging to see it pay off. It’s also a huge relief to be able to come and get the Olympic quota spot so early, it takes some pressure off of the rest of the year leading into the Olympics.

“Overall, this team has been so much fun, and I’ve really enjoyed competing alongside them.”

Elsewhere, South Africa’s women’s water polo team recorded their first ever win in the group stages of the World Championships, beating Argentina 12-9 to finish third in their group. They eventually finished in 12th place while the men’s team placed 16th.

Speaking afterwards, thrilled SA women’s water polo coach Nicola Barrett said: “The tournament went extremely well for us. It’s been something that we have been working towards… Beating Argentina was our goal going into the tournament. From the beginning, they were the team that we were really hoping and trying to beat which gave us the opportunity to remove ourselves from the bottom teams.

“For myself, I had to take a good three nights of not sleeping and watching film footage to be able to share that knowledge with the girls.

“Going from losing last year in Budapest by one goal to Argentina to beating them by three goals this year really took a lot in terms of our mental state. The thing that gave us the edge in that game was something that I’ve been working on as a coach which is the cohesion of the team and making sure that the team gelled well and that everyone knew their roles on the team.

“In terms of how much of a boost it’s given us going forward, it’s absolutely huge, not just for us but for all the players who are in South Africa that look up to us. It’s really done something incredible. It’s a historic moment for us, being top 12. We’ve never been able to do that before so it’s extremely exciting for us… I think the girls have really been inspired and are ready to take on the next challenge.”

Photo: World Aquatics

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