Teenager Lara van Niekerk took the win as the Commonwealth Games 100m breaststroke champion, ahead of Tatjana Schoenmaker. The swimming stars both gave South Africa a historic gold-silver finish in Birmingham, UK.
Schoenmaker claimed the silver, just 1.21 seconds behind Van Niekerk’s winning time. Swimming in lane four, Van Niekerk stopped the clock at a winning time of 1:05.47.
Australian swimmer Chelsea Hodges was third in 1:07.05. South African swimmer Kaylene Corbett was seventh.
“I didn’t expect it (the lead), I thought it was going to come down to a touch, so I was quite surprised and said, ‘Where’s Tatjana?’,” laughed Van Niekerk.
“I thought it was going to come to the last split. That was what I was preparing for at least.”
Schoenmaker swam over to Van Niekerk after her win to celebrate 1-2 for South Africa as the rest of the swimmers followed in a group hug. When Schoenmaker and Van Niekerk embraced, South Africa celebrated one of its proudest moments in Commonwealth Games history.
Lara Van Niekerk: South Africa’s new star
Van Niekerk became South Africa’s latest swimming superstar on Tuesday night with a stunning performance. The 19-year-old proved that she is ready to take on Schoenmaker at the Paris Olympics through her win at the Games.
Lara started training with Pretoria Aquatics Club swimming coach Eugene da Ponte at age eight.
The Pretoria swimmer is the new South African and African record holder in the 50m breaststroke category and the seventh fastest swimmer in history.
Women supporting women
Despite Van Niekerk stealing the show at the 2022 Commonwealth Games, Schoenmaker could not be prouder of the fellow South African woman.
During the medal ceremony, the emotional pair stood with their arms around each other as the South African national anthem rang out at the Sandwell Aquatics Centre.
Olympic champion Schoenmaker was thrilled for her South African teammate’s success.
“It’s amazing – we’re always supporting women, so it’s great to have a woman grab the first one. We can just be so proud of them. Being the senior now in the group, it’s nice to see the juniors come up and take the win,” Schoenmaker said after the race.
One of the most exciting aspects of Van Niekerk’s win is that she joins an elite group of SA swimmers to have won two golds at a single game. These include Olympic medallists like Schoenmaker, Chad le Clos, Cameron van der Burgh and Roland Schoeman.
We are all very excited to see what the future holds for South Africa’s new rising swimmer star.