Tatjana Schoenmaker on the podium with her gold medal. Photo: Marko Djurica/Reuters
Tatjana Schoenmaker on the podium with her gold medal. Photo: Marko Djurica/Reuters

’You have lifted the country’, President Cyril Ramaphosa tells Tatjana Schoenmaker after Olympic triumph

By Ashfak Mohamed Time of article published Jul 31, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - TEAM South Africa’s celebrations of Tatjana Schoenmaker extended well into the night at the Olympic Village in Tokyo as she received a hero’s welcome from her teammates and officials.

The Team SA contingent brought the Mzansi spirit to the village with strains of ‘Shosholoza’ ringing out on Friday night as the 200m breaststroke champion arrived back at headquarters after her astonishing performance at the Tokyo Aquatics Centre.

Schoenmaker set a new world record of 2:18.95 to clinch the gold medal, after capturing the silver in the 100m breaststroke earlier in the week.

Then followed a phone call from President Cyril Ramaphosa, who had earlier wished her well on Twitter – referring to her as an “absolute star” – while her coach Rocco Meiring and Team SA chef de mission Patience Shikwambana were also in attendance.

“Congratulations! You have lifted the country. We are in a good mood. Congratulations for your unbelievable effort. When I saw your performance in your first race – the other one, where you took silver – I knew you were keeping something in store,” Ramaphosa told Schoenmaker.

“I did (believe in you), and thank you so much. It was just unbelievable. And I called to say congratulations. You have done this for the country, as well as for yourself.

“And we honour you, we thank you. We are really delighted to have seen this unbelievable performance. A world record – you smashed it, and it’s fantastic.”

The 24-year-old from Pretoria expressed her thanks, adding: “I’m glad you believed in me. Thank you – it’s such an honour to speak to you.

ALSO READ: You leave me speechless, says Penny Heyns on Tatjana Schoenmaker’s Olympic gold

“Yes, they (her family) are (proud of her). And I must say, I must say I am very excited to come home. Two more days, and then I come back.”

Ramaphosa also extended his good wishes to the coach, Meiring, who is based at the University of Pretoria’s Tuks Sport club.

“To the coach, Rocco, well done! And I congratulate you too, because you have done unbelievable work in preparing Tatjana to be at the level where she is.

ALSO READ: South African gold medallists at the Olympic Games: Tatjana Schoenmaker joins Mzansi’s elite

“She is the best in the world – there is no question about it. She is the very best in the world. To have won an Olympic gold, and to have smashed the world record is just unbelievable.

“So, congratulations to you… you’ve done a fantastic job.”

When asked by Ramaphosa what she normally does on a daily basis, Schoenmaker said that she was still a student at the University of Pretoria, where she is busy with a post-graduate qualification – having already completed a BCom in financial sciences.

“This will give you wings to make that second degree of yours! Thank you very much,” Ramaphosa concluded.

Two-time Olympic breaststroke champion Penny Heyns was among those South African sports stars to congratulate Schoenmaker, with Springbok captain Siya Kolisi saying that SA sportswomen should be celebrated further.

“Congratulations to Tatjana Schoenmaker. On behalf of the team, we want to say well done. That was special, and I don’t think we make enough noise about those kinds of things – especially for women in sport,” the Bok No 6 said ahead of Saturday’s second Test against the British and Irish Lions at Cape Town Stadium.

“I think we should celebrate them – especially us as men – we should celebrate them even more. We are very proud of the country, and that gave me something to smile about… throughout everything that we’ve been going through, that definitely did put a smile on our faces.

“It encouraged me, and we want to be better this weekend, without a doubt. We knew exactly where we went wrong. We looked at our mistakes as a team and we fixed them, and I thought we trained very well together as a team, and we are really looking forward to this weekend.

“Of course we want to win. We want to win every single game when we put on this jersey, and we know what it will mean for the morale of the country, and how people are feeling – in just the same way that Tatjana made us feel when she won the two medals.”


IOL Sport

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