Mili-seconds is what it is going to be all about for Tatjana Schoenmaker as she prepares for next year's Tokyo Olympic Games.
TuksSwimming's head coach, Rocco Meiring, is quite clear as to what awaits them. Saying the days of Schoenmaker "flying under the radar" is undoubtedly something of the past. From now on every time she competes internationally, she will be the one that everyone wants to beat. That is, unfortunately, the price you pay when you win a silver medal at a World Championships.
"For us, it is all about marginal gains," explained Meiring when asked about the plan from now until the Olympic Games.
"The goal is for Tatjana to consistently swim times of two minutes 23 seconds every time she competes from now on in the 200m breaststroke with the ultimate being to get her to swim 2:21 or even faster."
Over the last three years, the Tuks swimmer has managed to continually improve her 200m breaststroke times. In 2017 her best was 2:24.61 and last year it was 2:22.02. During the World Championships, she swam 2:21.79.
Only three swimmers have clocked faster times so far this season. Russia's Yuliya Efimova has swum 2:20.17, Annie Lazor (USA) 2:20.77 and Lilly King (USA) 2:21.39.
"Tatjana has always been fast; she was, however, handicapped slightly by her start and in the way she executed the tumble turn. The analysis during the World Championships indicates that she is getting better at doing the turns, but there is definitely still room for improvement. As I have said, it is all about ensuring she gets to be that hundredth of the second faster all the time.
"Something else we focussed on was improving her front-end speed. She has got to be faster than 1 minute 10 seconds over the first 100 metres. Ideally, her splits should be between 1:08 and 1:09. Once she has mastered doing that, we will revert focussing on her back-end speed again. Being truly competitive at an international level is a neverending quest."
According to Meiring, the aim is also to try and improve Schoenmaker's 100m-breaststroke times. Currently, it is 1:06.32. Her main focus, for now, is going to be the 200m-breaststroke. Meiring explained that it is difficult for swimmers to excel in both events.
"The problem is that training intensively for both events can be counterproductive in the long run. Still, I want Tatjana to be able to swim times faster than 1:06 in the 100m-breaststroke. To do so means she has got to be able to swim the second 50 metres under 35 seconds. She has managed to do so on two occasions. Once at the World Student Games and once at the World Championships. Consistent faster times in the 100m-breaststroke will enable Tatjana to also be faster over 200 metres."
So far this season it seemed as if the Tuks swimmer can do nothing wrong. She won two gold medals at the World Student Games (100m as well as 200m breaststroke). Made South African sports history during the recent World Long Course Championships by becoming the first female swimmer to medal. She won a silver in the 200m-breaststroke. To top it all, she also won two gold medals at the Tokyo World Cup.
Meiring is not sure if and when Schoenmaker will compete again. All will depend on her studies.