16 March 2006
South Africa’s men’s 4×100 metres freestyle relay squad has added another big title to the Olympic gold they won in world record time in Athens in 2004.
The quartet of Roland Schoeman, Lyndon Ferns, Gerhard Zandberg, and Ryk Neethling claimed gold at the Commonwealth Games in Melbourne in a Games record of three minutes 14.97 seconds, 1.8 seconds outside their world mark.
Australia failed to win gold in the event for the first time since the 1978 Commonwealth Games in Edmonton. Canada finished third.
Despite South Africa being the Olympic champions and world record holders, the Australian fans were somewhat shocked by the defeat of their team.
Schoeman gave South Africa the start they wanted, storming into the lead. Ferns and Zandberg then kept SA in front until Ryk Neethling brought the relay squad home to gold over the final leg, despite a strong effort from Australia’s Ashley Callus.
The Aussies finished in three minutes 15.54 seconds, with Canada just behind them in three minutes 15.74 seconds.
Schoeman opened with a superb first 50 metres, covering the distance in 22.83 seconds, over half-a-second ahead of his nearest challenger. He touched after 100 metres in 48.65 seconds.
Ferns was next into the pool and clocked a hasty 48.43 after his flying start.
Zandberg, who replaced Darian Townsend from the Athens gold medal winning squad, then turned in a time of 49.44 before Neethling shut out the opposition with a final 100 metres of 48.45.
“It was a lot closer than we would have liked but at the end of the day we got the medal for our country and we’re proud of it,” said Schoeman afterwards.