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Thu Apr 24 14:44:44 SAST 2014

Cameron inspires Team SA

DAVID ISAACSON in London | 30 July, 2012 07:220 Comments
Cameron van der Burgh of South Africa smiles with his gold medal during the men's 100m breaststroke victory ceremony at the London 2012 Olympic Games at the Aquatics Centre July 29, 2012. Van der Burgh also set a world record time of 58.46 seconds
Image by: David Gray / REUTERS

GOLDEN boy Cameron van der Burgh probably smiled in his sleep last night.

And he deserved nothing less. Van der Burgh could not stop grinning after conquering the planet's best in the men's 100m breaststroke in a 58.46 second world record.

"It's just a feeling that I cannot describe right now.''

Van der Burgh went into the final as the out-and-out favourite, having clocked an Olympic record in the semifinals the previous night.

And he delivered in such style he could teach every politician in South Africa just how to perform when it counts.

Van der Burgh simply torpedoed a field that was the who's who of breaststroke racing.

Among his victims were American Brenton Rickard, the previous world record-holder, and Kosuke Kitajima, the 2004 and 2008 Olympic champion in this event.

Van der Burgh led from start to finish. Everybody knows he has a quick start, but he had been working hard this year on his second lap, when he has been known to fade in the past.

And at no point did the South African star look like he would not win as he clocked 58.46 seconds, smashing 12-hundredths of a second off the world record.

"I did not really care about the world record, it really does not faze me," he said. "Once you become an Olympic champion, you join the club and they can never take it away from you."

The key to the final was treating it like a normal race, he said. "It is really so difficult to try and keep focused on the matter at hand. It is just a race like any other race and you have got to see it that way.

"And the whole day it is just been trying to speak to friends, girlfriend, parents, trying to keep your mind off the matter."

There is a feeling that Van der Burgh's gold will help inspire Team SA as a whole, although it was not quite enough to push the men's 4x100m freestyle relay team onto the podium.

Gideon Louw, Darian Townsend, Graeme Moore and Roland Schoeman finished fifth in a nail-biting race where France avenged their defeat four years ago to the US. Russia were third and Australia, the pre-race favourites, fourth.

In other results, South Africa's cyclists put in a strong performance in the road race through the wet streets of London, with Ashleigh Moolman ending 16th and Joanna van de Winkel 28th.

Hockey captain Marsha Marescia and her team, who have improved in performance rather than world ranking in the past two years, were blown away 7-1 by Argentina in their Olympic opener.

Every member of Team SA deserves our support, as long as they try their best. But one who needs to buck up is Charl Crous, who crashed out of the 100m backstroke heats in a pedestrian 55.37.

SA's 4x100m medley relay team is supposed to be a medal hope come Saturday's final, but only if Crous breaks 54.00. Maybe Van der Burgh must have a long chat with him.

The SA men's badminton team of Dorian James and Willem Viljoen were downed by China's Zhendong Guo and Biao Chai 21-8 and 21-13.

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Cameron inspires Team SA

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