SA swimmer clinches World Cup title

18 November 2008

Cameron van der Burgh continued South Africa’s recent successes in the short-course FINA/Arena Swimming World Cup, claiming the men’s overall title after the conclusion of the 2008 series in Berlin on the weekend.

Ryk Neethling achieved the feat for two years running, in 2005 and 2006, while Roland Schoeman finished runner-up to Neethling in 2005.

Van der Burgh, a breaststroke specialist, broke three short-course world records during the 2008 series. In Moscow, he clocked 26.08 seconds for the 50 metres to better the previous record of 26.17, set by Oleg Lisogor, which had stood since January 2006.

He then destroyed the 100 metres mark that had belonged to Ed Moses since January 2002, lowering the record from 57.47 seconds to 56.88.

Under the 26-second barrier

Van der Burgh’s 50-metre record in Moscow didn’t stand for long, however, as he became the first man to crack the 26-second barrier for the 50 metres a week later in Stockholm, with a sensational time of 25.94 seconds.

He won 12 medals in total, made up of 10 golds and two bronzes.

His efforts were well rewarded as he pocketed a cheque for $100 000 for his overall victory. On top of that, each individual win was worth $1 500.

18 victories

There was also success for South African Kathryn Meaklim in the women’s competition; she finished third in the overall standings, which was worth $30 000, after winning 18 events throughout the series. She also picked up six silvers and two bronzes, making her the winner of the most women’s medals.

Meaklim’s success was built on her dominance of the 400 metres individual medley, which she won five times, including in a World Cup record 4:27.21 in Stockholm.

The depth and the high level of performances by South African swimmers throughout the World Cup series was on show at the final event in Berlin.

Breaststroke double

Van der Burgh did the 50 and 100 metres double in the breaststroke, clocking 26.05 and 57.32 seconds respectively for two dominating victories.

Darian Townsend excelled with victory in the 100 metres individual medley in 51.80 seconds – the fastest time recorded for the event throughout the World Cup series. The World Cup record belongs to Ryk Neethling, with a time of 51.52 seconds.

In addition, Townsend was pipped to the 200 IM title by Olympic 1 500 metres freestyle champion Oussama Mellouli, after a terrific battle which the Tunisian won in 1:52.41, a new African record. Townsend smashed the South African record with his time of 1:52.51 as both men bettered the previous World Cup best.

Gold, silver, bronze

He completed a haul of all three medals on offer with third place in the 200 metes freestyle in a personal best time of 1:43.19. Melloulli took second, while Germany’s Paul Bierdermann powered to victory in 1:40.83 seconds to eclipse the world record that had previously belonged to Australian legend Ian Thorpe.

Meaklim picked up a victory in the 400 metres individual medley, finishing close to five seconds clear of second placed Emma Smithurst, while veteran Mandy Loots enjoyed a superb competition.

The 30-year-old was second in the 100 butterfly in a fast 58.05 seconds, and also finished second in the 200 butterfly, this time in an African record 2:06.60. Loots claimed a third medal in the 200 individual medley by finishing third.

Lyndon Ferns completed South Africa’s medal haul in Berlin by picking up silver in the men’s 100 metres freestyle in 46.71 seconds. Victory went to Olympic champion Alain Bernard of France.

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