Three seconds – that’s how much Tatjana Schoenmaker needs to improve her time in the 200-metre breaststroke if she wants to have a realistic chance of medalling at next year’s Commonwealth Games in Australia.
Rocco Meiring, her coach, admits she is in for a tough challenge. ‘It equates to finding a way to gain eight metres. The only way Tatjana will be able to do so, is if we address every aspect: technique, power, speed endurance and pure speed.’
The exciting thing is that Schoenmaker (Tuks/HPC) is never one to settle for mediocrity. Earlier this season, after swimming 2min 24.93sec at the national championships she’s on record saying: ‘With this time I would have made the semi-finals at the Olympics, but I’m not even close to the range for the finals. There’s still a lot of hard work that awaits me. My goals are obviously not only to reach the final; I’d like to achieve a lot more.’
It’s a case of first things first. Schoenmaker will be competing at the World Student Games in Taipei next month, because due to her study commitments, the financial science student at the University of Pretoria chose not to represent South Africa at the World Championships.
‘I don’t want to miss too much varsity. I want to focus on my studies as well, but I’ll compete at the World University Games (in Taipei), which is just outside my exam times,’ Schoenmaker said.
According to Meiring, there is no real goal for the World University Games. ‘I will be happy if she competes in the final, but as to what a possible outcome could be, I have no idea as to who will be competing.
‘The goal was for her to swim a time of 2:24 something at Taipei, but she has already done so at the South African championships in Durban, which means we are ahead of the planned schedule. I’d be happy with another 2:24 performance at the University Games.’
Schoenmaker, who features in the latest Team SA magazine (see below), has a best time of 2:24.93 in the 200m-breaststroke.
Meiring has mapped out Schoenmaker’s ‘journey’ to next year’s Commonwealth Games and the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo to the finest detail, leaving absolutely nothing to chance, but has still prioritised her studies.
‘Tatjana’s got the X-factor when it comes to putting in the hard work and competing. To me, she is like a proverbial “racehorse”, so as a coach it is important to know when enough is enough. You can never overload her during training because there is always a chance that it will have the opposite effect.
‘It would have been easy if she was a swimmer who you can push hard during training, as that allows you as a coach to make mistakes because the volume of training will compensate for it, but now it is all about finding the right balance. There is no margin for error.
‘What excites me is the way Tatjana is capable of producing a really big output during certain sessions.’
‘It’s important that she gets her degree by the end of 2018, which will not be easy. In between her studies, the goal is that she should qualify for next year’s Commonwealth Games this December. When she does, the challenge will be to win a medal in April.
‘Afterwards, she will have to study for her exams in June. With that out of the way, the plan will be to put in some hard training before she has to focus on her studies for the year-end final exams again.’
Picture of Schoenmaker courtesy of Reg Caldecott