Alumna profile: Tatjana Schoenmaker

Posted on March 16, 2020

Passion. Discipline. Timing. These qualities largely contribute to a firm foundation for a successful career reckons world swimming champion and Tuks Sportswoman of the Year, Tatjana Schoenmaker, who is all set to make her mark at the Olympic Games. Read more about her achievements and ambitions below.
Q: While you were still a student at UP, you excelled in both national and international swimming events. Share some of the highlights.
A: In 2017, my second year of study at UP, I won silver at the World Student Games, and in 2018 I won double gold at the Commonwealth Games. In 2019, I again won double gold at the World Student Games and silver at the World Championships. I twice won the Tuks Sportswoman of the Year Award, in 2018 and 2019. I also won the South African Sportswoman of the Year Award in 2019 as well as Sport Star of the Year. An absolute highlight was my graduation in the same year! So, finally I was able to achieve something amazing in my academics, not just my swimming.
Q: To what extent did your studies in BCom (Financial Sciences) at the UP benefit you in your swimming career and contributed to your success?
A: It definitely helped because mentally it ‘balanced’ me in terms of swimming and studying. In other words, while I enjoy focusing on swimming, it also focused my mind on studying, which in turn switched off my mind from swimming. The University and Faculty of Economic and Management  Sciences personnel were not only very supportive when I missed tests or exams by allowing me to write them on different dates, but they also assisted me to extend my year because I was away for swimming competitions quite often. So, it definitely contributed to my success in respect of graduating as well as swimming.
Q: Given your academic and sports experience at UP, what advice could you pass on to current students?
A: Enjoy it! Persevere! Sure, at times it will be tough, but at the end of the day it will be worth it. Anyone can do it...and at Tuks the staff is always willing to help out. While I’m doing well in my swimming, I’m also fortunate enough and grateful to say that I have a degree to fall back on , so, if my swimming doesn’t work out for me, I always have my BCom to help me out.
Q: What, in your opinion, is the foundation of a successful career?
A: First and foremost: passion. You need to have passion for what you are doing; whether it is swimming or studying. If you have a passion for what you are doing and it makes you happy, you most likely will succeed. Likewise, you need to have the necessary discipline: it takes a lot to push yourself, not just in the pool, but also academically when you ever so often have to study until late at night and still get to training the following morning.  Finally, you also need to have a sense of timing, for example when you take off a few hours to relax; you need to put in the same hours to catch up.
Q: How do you manage to stay ahead of the game nationally and internationally?
A: If you want to stay ahead, it’s all about what you put in...consistency...sacrifice...willing to go the extra mile. Obviously you can’t have it all... swimming, studies, social life, so unfortunately I had to sacrifice on student life. People tend to think I’m inhuman, but that was what I was willing to sacrifice in order to bring me to where I am today.
Q: Which publications/newspapers/blogs etc. do you enjoy reading?
A: To be honest, I’m not very fond of reading, but there are times when I like to page through fashion magazines. While it may not always be nice to read about the negative things in South Africa, I also like to stay on top of the latest news.
Q: What truly motivates/inspires you?
A: Being able to do what I love - every single day.  My love for swimming makes me want to get up every morning and go to training. It’s like my second home. Being fortunate enough to travel the world doing what I love, seeing new places and meeting new people and sports heroes, motivates me a lot.
Q: If you could have a face-to-face meeting with an inspiring person - in any sphere - who sets an example in transforming the world and inspiring others to do the same, who would it be and what would you like to discuss?
A: I would love to meet, and hear so many people’s stories, be it for small or momentous achievements. Sports heroes like Usain Bolt and Roger Federer who give back to the community and use their success to help others to also achieve success, are hugely inspiring.
Q: Going forward, what are your personal goals?
A: I would love to compete in the Olympic Games and be part of this amazing experience. It’s scary to think that, 23 years on, your childhood dreams are finally coming true! With regard to studying, I’m taking this year off to contemplate if there is something that I would like to carry on studying in terms of a postgraduate qualification... and in the process also get to know myself.
- Author Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences
Published by Liesl Oosthuizen

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