1 August 2013
It was a night that belonged to South Africa as Olympic champions Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh both struck gold at the 15th Fina World Swimming Championships in Barcelona on Wednesday.
Although Le Clos was the favourite for the men’s 200 metres butterfly after his epic victory against American Michael Phelps in London last year, the Durbanite was not expecting the easy race that everyone was predicting.
But the 21-year-old set the pace and tone for the rest of the South Africans, outswimming his opposition to touch in 1:54.32 – while doing his characteristic look to either side as he approached the finish, to the amazement of all the coaches.
“It was on exactly the same day a year ago that Le Clos won Olympic gold,” said coach Graham Hill. “His win tonight means he has added the World Championship long course title to his titles as the Commonwealth Champion, World Short Course Champion and Olympic Champion.”
Le Clos finished ahead of Poland’s Pawel Korzeniowski in 1:55.01 and China’s Wu Peng in 1:55.09.
Just as Le Clos was re-writing the history books, Van der Burgh was doing the same thing a few events later in the 50 metres breastroke. The Olympic champion and world record holder, despite battling with a dose of flu, managed to edge out arch-rival Christiaan Sprenger of Australia by just 0.01 seconds to clock 26.77 seconds.
But his excitement was more for his training partner, Giulio Zorzi, who from lane 8 raced in to snatch the bronze medal in a personal best of 27.04 seconds.
“We have trained together all our lives,” Van der Burgh said afterwards. “First with Francois Boshoff, then Lionel Durandt – and this was for Lionel [who passed away recently]. From there we both joined Dirk Lange. Giulio’s bronze almost means more to me than my gold! I won my first bronze at the World Championships in 2007 from lane 8.”
Van der Burgh is re-writing his own history as the only breaststroker to have won medals over four championships – third in 2007, winning in 2009, third in 2011 and now another gold.
Leading South African coach Wayne Riddin coached the SA team at the Sydney Olympics in 2000. He is currently in Barcelona for the Fina Swimming World Championships.