Every South African a Swimmer

Schoenmaker leads the charge for world champs, Commonwealth qualification at National Championships

Schoenmaker leads the charge for world champs, Commonwealth qualification at National Championships
Thursday, 31 March 2022 - Places in the teams to represent South Africa at the World Championships and Commonwealth Games will be on the line as the country’s best swimmers head to Gqeberha for the SA National Swimming Championships next week.

Leading the charge will be Olympic champion and world record-holder Tatjana Schoenmaker who will be looking to defend the double gold she won at the last Commonwealth Games in 2018.

“I’m very excited. It’s been a bit more tough than other years, just in the sense of getting back into things since everything has changed,” said Schoenmaker, whose life changed dramatically after claiming gold and silver at last year’s Tokyo Olympics.

“There are a lot of new responsibilities that came along the past eight months. But it’s been very exciting and I’m always up for the challenge.”

Asked about heading into a national championship as an Olympic champion for the first time, the 24-year-old reckoned: “It’s a bit crazy to think that that’s even true but luckily I just love racing in general.”

With the major championships, where she’ll need to be at her peak, still several months away, Schoenmaker isn’t expecting to be in the same national record-breaking form she was at last year’s SA Championships. She’s just relishing the chance to race alongside what’s fast becoming a world-class field of South African breaststrokers.

“I had never swum a PB at Nationals before – last year was the first time ever so I think that’s why you saw the shock on my face. Going into this Nationals there’s no expectation. I’m just focusing on my races. There are some fast girls, especially in the breaststroke. Kaylene [Corbett] and Lara [van Niekerk] are doing so well so I’m excited to see how they race. Not necessarily trying to beat each other – I think it’s just supporting each other to get into that team and then prove ourselves internationally,” added Schoenmaker.

Also lining up in Gqeberha will be four-time Olympic medallist Chad le Clos, who is battling his way back from illness – having spent time in hospital earlier in the year with Bronchitis.

“It’s been a great year of training. I’m managed to gather a group of youngsters to train with me in South Africa – mainly based out of Cape Town,” said Le Clos, who has been entered in the 100 and 200m freestyle, and the 50, 100 and 200m butterfly.

“I’ve swum a couple of local competitions before Nationals, but I’m on my fourth round of antibiotics. I have chronic sinusitis and I have to have surgery to get that fixed, so we’re hoping to get that done – hopefully after Commonwealths… It’s been really bad but other than that the training has been going excellently, really well.”

Le Clos has set his sights on becoming the most decorated athlete of all time at the Commonwealth Games.

“I’ll hopefully qualify for a couple of races and then my goal is to become the most successful Commonwealth Games athlete in history come July.

With 17 medals from three Games already in the bag, Le Clos will need to win two more medals to surpass Australian shooter Phillip Adams, who currently holds the record.

“That’s a big goal of mine. I’m focusing very heavily on that. We’ve got the world champs before which will obviously be very important, but the Commonwealths is definitely my main focus for this year. Hopefully we can get a couple of relays through and pick up a few medals there but I’m hoping to smash that record come July.”

Meanwhile, also looking to make a splash once again this year is rising star Matt Sates, who has returned to South Africa for the National Championships from the USA where he set the college circuit ablaze for the University of Georgia.

Having represented the country at the Olympics last year, Sates will be gunning for a first appearance at both the World Championships and Commonwealth Games.

“My experience in the US since January has been one that I am so happy to add to my list of blessings that have come my way with my swimming career. I was so kindly welcomed and part of the Bulldogs as soon as I arrived. Training with such a strong squad pushed my limits which I so enjoy doing. I think that anybody who trains hard and stays focused will always come back a stronger swimmer in many ways,” he said.

Sates made a name for himself internationally in the short course pool in 2021 after securing the overall World Cup title. In Gqeberha, the 18-year-old has been entered into the 50, 100 and 200m butterfly, the 50, 100, 200 and 400m freestyle and the 200 and 400m individual medley.

Speaking about how he’s changed as a swimmer since last year’s Nationals, Sates reckoned: “Nationals in 2021 was an incredibly stressful time for me as I was needing to qualify for the Olympics and the pressure was intense. I think in the last year I have matured and racing the World Cups last year took the stress of galas to the next level. I go into the competitions now taking what I learnt last year to hopefully keep on getting better and learning how to deal with all the different pressures that come with it. I enjoy Nationals as it is a time for all the SA swimmers to be together.”

Action at the Newton Park Swimming pool will get under way on the morning of 6 April and run until 11 April.


For further information please contact:

Swimming South Africa’s Marketing Coordinator

Mmathapelo Phale

011 404 2480 / 074 363 0001

Swimming South Africa is the governing body of aquatics in South Africa.

Its objective is to encourage the practice of aquatic disciplines for all in South Africa with the purpose of promoting swimming as a life skill through Learn to Swim programmes; providing healthy exercise to South Africans of all ages and races; recruiting recreational swimmers to compete in the various competitions; and promoting competition and athlete development to the highest level. Swimming South Africa is kindly supported by SASCOC, National Lottery Distribution Trust Fund, Arena, Sport & Recreation SA and Rand Water.