Tatjana Smith’s Paris Olympics expectations ‘even higher’ than gold

Tatjana Smith, seen here posing with her 200m breaststroke gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, will hope to repeat the feat in Paris. Photo: AFP

Tatjana Smith, seen here posing with her 200m breaststroke gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics, will hope to repeat the feat in Paris. Photo: AFP

Published May 16, 2024


SASCOC yesterday announced the first batch of what is going to be arguably the biggest Team South Africa squad to ever go to the Olympics, and the name of Tatjana Smith (née Schoenmaker) stood out like a sore thumb for a country looking to improve on a dismal showing at the last Games.

Revealing the 39 names of athletes from seven sports, SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee president Barry Hendricks said that they will be taking a 230-strong squad inclusive of all kinds of support staff and employees of the country’s Olympic governing body to Paris 2024.

“With 72 days to go before the Games, this is the start of the development of a buzz around Team SA. There will be two more announcements, so we can really build a case for people talking about Team South Africa,” Hendricks said.

There was a buzz at Sascoc House yesterday morning at the announcement, the athletes’ excitement about the confirmation they will be going to the greatest sporting event of them all knowing no bounds.

Even Smith, having already been to the Games before, could not contain her delight: “It’s special now that it is kind of official. It is my second time, but it does not mean any less to me than the first time.

“I am glad it is official, even though we had the suspicion it will happen. It is nice to finally know it is happening.”

Smith is aware there will be high expectations on herself and the swimming team that usually delivers for Team SA at the Paris Games – which takes place from July 26-August 11 – but she’s not going to allow that to get to her.

”It is all about not carrying that expectation on yourself. Everyone expects you to win gold, but my expectation on myself is even higher,“ she said.

“For me, I am going out there and if I can swim my best time. Obviously, I’ve achieved the best in my sport and that’s always what I am fighting for – the best time.

“It is about racing the races as best as possible, and if it ends up being gold, then that’s great.”

While they did not state what mandate they have set for Team South Africa, Sascoc announced an incentive for the athletes to go for Olympic glory.

Those who emulate the likes of Smith, Caster Semenya, Penny Heyns and Josiah Thugwane by winning gold stand to swell their bank accounts by R400 000, with their coaches due a cool R100 000.

A silver medal will earn an athlete R200 000 and coach R50 000, while those who occupy the last spot on the podium will be rewarded with R75 000 and R25 000 respectively.

Hendricks said the onus was on the respective federations to set particular goals: “We are not going to tie ourselves down (to speaking about mandates). We are going to leave the performance to the federations.”

Sascoc announced a 39-member squad in seven sporting codes – aquatics (nine), athletics (17), canoeing (four), gymnastics (one), sport climbing (four), surfing (three) and wrestling (one), while two more batches will be announced later.

They will be revealing the Team SA kit next week.

Team South Africa

Aquatics: Pieter Coetzé, Chad le Clos, Matthew Sates, Aimee Canny, Tatjana Smith, Kaylene Corbett, Erin Gallagher, Rebecca Meder, Julia Vincent

Athletics: Stephen Mokoka, Gerda Steyn, Irvette van Zyl, Cian Oldknow, Akani Simbine, Benjamin Richardson, Luxolo Adams, Wayde van Niekerk, Lythe Pillay, Zakithi Nene, Tshepo Tshite, Adriaan Wildschutt, Marioné Fourie, Zeney Geldenhuys, Rogail Josephs, Jovan van Vuuren, Prudence Sekgodiso

Canoeing: Tiffany Koch, Esti Olivier, Hamish Lovemore, Andrew Birkett

Climbing: Aniya Holder, Joshua Bruyns, Lauren Mukheibir, Mel Janse van Rensburg

Gymnastics: Caitlin Rooskrantz

Surfing: Jordy Smith, Matthew McGillivray, Sarah Ann Baum

Wrestling: Steyn de Lange