South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker won gold at the Olympics in Tokyo on Friday, setting the tone for Uganda and Ethiopia following on the leader board. With more events still to unfold, there is still room for strong showings.
South Africa’s Tatjana Schoenmaker brought home the continent’s first gold medal on Friday, in the process smashing the world record for the women’s 200m breaststroke, with a finishing time of 2:18.95.
The 24-year old became the first female South African swimmer to win gold at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in a quarter of a century, delivering a supreme performance to finish ahead of America’s Lilly King and Annie Lazor.
Emotional at her victory, Schoenmaker was still in the water when she saw the scoreboards indicate she had set a new world record, and shrieked with delight before being congratulated by her rivals, and earning her second medal for the games so far after having won the silver in the women’s 100m breaststroke earlier in the week.
Schoenmaker received a surprise congratulatory phone call from South African President Cyril Ramaphosa on Friday after her victory. Given the tumultuous few weeks the country has seen, the president had some supportive and unifying words for the swimmer, who was strongly celebrated back home.
“You have lifted the country,” said Ramaphosa in a recording of the clip released by the Presidency, “Thank you so much. It was just unbelievable. You have done this for the country and for yourself and we honour you … we are really delighted to have seen this unbelievable performance.”
South Africa leads the continent’s medals at the games so far, which has seen Ethiopia’s Selemon Berega win gold for the men’s 10,000m, and Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei set world records in three different events at the games so far. South Africa currently stands at one gold and two silver medals, Uganda with one silver and one bronze, and Ethiopia with one gold.
With many of the athletics events still to come, there is still plenty of room for the teams to bring more success and glory to their countries.