South African swimmer Chad le Clos
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- Former Olympic champion Penny Heyns believes that South Africa’s Tokyo Olympics medal hopes in the pool will lie solely on Chad le Clos and Tatjana Schoenmaker.
- Heyns believes that it’ll be hard for either Le Clos or Schoenmaker to win gold considering the star-studded line-ups they will face.
- South Africa brought home three silver medals in the pool at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
Double Olympic gold medallist Penny Heyns tips South Africa’s Chad le Clos and Tatjana Schoenmaker to make the podium at this year’s rescheduled Tokyo Olympics.
At the 2016 Rio Olympics, South African swimmers brought home three silver medals with Le Clos picking up two and Cameron van der Burgh also sealing a podium spot.
Five years later and the Tokyo Olympics will finally get underway from July following 2020’s postponement.
Heyns is confident that Le Clos will be taking home a medal but is doubtful whether he’ll taste gold.
“In terms of medals, I think Chad is going to be a contender, it’s not going to be as easy as in the past,” Heyns told Sport24.
Heyns pointed out that Le Clos has tough rivals to defeat with Hungarian newcomer Kristof Milak and American superstar Caeleb Dressel.
“He is going up in key events in the butterfly and going up against two young guns, who’ve both broken Michael Phelps’ record in the 100m and 200m in the 2019 World Champs,” said Heyns.
“I’m not sure about Milak but for Dressel, something has to go hugely wrong for him not to win gold.”
In 2019, 19-year-old Milak took down Michael Phelps’s long-standing 200m butterfly world record at the World Swimming Championships with Le Clos finishing third.
Days later, Dressel then broke Phelps’s 10-year-old world record in the 100m butterfly with Le Clos taking bronze again.
Le Clos confirmed to Sport24 earlier this month that he would like to potentially compete in four events: 100m and 200m freestyle, 100m and 200m butterfly.
With Van der Burgh’s retirement in 2018, South Africa’s medal contenders in the pool rest heavily on Le Clos shoulders.
However, there is a ray of hope in the form of new swimming sensation Schoenmaker.
The 23-year-old breaststroke swimmer is set to make her Olympic debut if she qualifies for April’s Olympic trials in Port Elizabeth.
Schoenmaker rose to prominence at the 2018 Commonwealth Games at the Gold Coast where she picked up two gold medals in the 100m and 200m breaststroke.
In 2019, Schoenmaker became the first South African female swimmer to win a medal at a FINA World Championships when she took silver in the 200m breaststroke.
What made it double special was that Heyns presented Schoenmaker her first World Championship medal in Gwangju.
“Tatjana has improved a lot and if she continues, she’ll definitely be on the podium,” said former breaststroker Heyns.
“However, there are a couple of young guns like American Lilly King, who will take the 100m and I hope she doesn’t take the 200m.
“Tatjana has a good chance in the 200m, more so than the 100m, but it’s going to have to be her absolute best performance.”
If Schoenmaker succeeds, she’ll be the first South African female swimmer to win an Olympic medal since Heyns’ bronze at the 2000 Sydney Olympics.
Le Clos also backed Schoenmaker to win her first Olympic medal with the Tokyo Games scheduled to get underway from 24 July to 8 August.