She had a fine chance to win the 100m but she couldn’t reproduce her Olympic record-breaking swim from the heats and the fallback of 0.40sec in the final cost her the title as USA’s Lydia Jacoby managed to bring her best when it counted the most (she won with 1:04.95, Schoenmaker swam 1:04.84 in the heats).

But in the 200m it was Tatjana Schoenmaker’s day and this time she delivered. Not just a gold – to demonstrate that she also brought her best to the pool she smashed the world record, producing the first individual WR here in Tokyo.

For the first 100m, 2016 Rio champion of the 100m, Lilly King set the pace and turned first at the halfway mark, but Schoenmaker stayed close enough (trailed by 0.61sec) to launch a successful attack. The following 50m were enough to catch up the American and she already turned onto the last length as the leader and her homecoming leg was unmatchable. She gained 0.88sec on King over this last lap and towards the end it was just her and the red line. She beat that as well to better Denmark’s Rikke Moller-Pedersen’s world record from the 2013 World Championships. That wasn’t a surprise either as Schoenmaker got very close in the semis (was just 0.05sec shy) – now she not only broke it but also broke inside the 2:19min barrier by clocking 2:18.95.

King could hold on for the silver medal, came inside 2:20 too, while compatriot Annie Lazor out-touched Evgeniia Chikunova (ROC) for the bronze by 0.04sec. Soon the two American medallists, together with fellow South African Kylene Corbett (finished 5th), celebrated Schoenmaker in the water who needed some time to recognise that she had not only won but also set a global mark and that opened a highway for the tears of joy.

Schoenmaker became the first female swimmer from her country to win an Olympic gold in 25 years (interestingly, Penny Heyns, currently chair of the FINA Athletes Committee, also excelled in breaststroke in Atlanta 1996) – and also the first in 22 years who brought down a WR. 

"It still hasn't sunk in” Schoenmaker admitted after the race. “I don't wish my Olympic dream over, but I am excited to go and celebrate even just being at the Olympics with my parents."

On her approach towards the competition, the South African said: 

"Really just in every race to focus on myself and believe that God's power will come through. Whether that means I come last or not, as long as I focus and know that I did everything from my side and God did the rest, I think I would have walked out of here with so much peace no matter what the outcome."

Soon she was back for the victory ceremony, now smiling upon receiving the gold medal, a first here for the whole South African delegation.