Team SA profile: Cameron van der Burgh

10 July 2012

The South African team for the 2012 London Olympic Games includes one swimmer who is a world record holder in long course events: Cameron van der Burgh, the fastest breaststroke swimmer ever over 50 metres.

The current South African swimmer of the year, his consistently high class performances have also been recognised by Swimming World Magazine, which has named Van der Burgh its African Swimmer of the Year for 2009, 2010 and 2011.

A look at his international record confirms that he is a world-class talent with the ability to step onto the Olympic podium in London.

Aged 24, Van der Burgh has been competing internationally since 2007 and has achieved notable successes on the world stage since then.

World Championships bronze

That year, he competed in the Fina World Aquatics Championships in Melbourne and was immediately among the medal winners, claiming bronze in the 50 metres after swimming the fastest time of the event in the heats of 27.49 seconds.

He also shone at the All Africa Games in Algiers in July, doing the double in the 50m and 100m breaststroke.

In 2008, Van der Burgh excelled on the Fina World Cup circuit and followed in the footsteps of Ryk Neethling by becoming the overall World Cup winner.

During the 2008 series, he broke three short-course world records. He also became the first man to crack the 26-second barrier in the 50m when he won in Stockholm in a sensational time of 25.94.

The 100 metres record had stood behind the name of Ed Moses since 2002, but the South African ace lowered that record from 57.47 to 56.88 seconds.

10 victories

He finished the series with 12 medals in total, 10 of which were gold, with the other two being bronze medals.

At the short course World Championships in Manchester, he placed third in the 50m and won silver in the 100m.

At the Beijing Olympics, Vand er Burgh recorded an African record of 59.96sec in the 100m heats, which was the fifth fastest time. He was, however, a little off song in the semi-finals and missed out on the finals by one place.

His best year, though, was to follow in 2009 and the highlight of his year came in Rome at the 13th Fina World Championships.

Competing in the 100 metres first, he swam an African record 59.54 seconds in the heats. He then improved that mark to 59.13 in the semi-finals, which was the second fastest time.

In the final, he cracked the 59-second barrier, clocking 58.95, but had to settle for bronze in another African record.

World Championships 50 metres

The best was yet to come for van der Burgh, however, in the 50 metres. He set a championship record and African record in the heats, breaking 27 seconds in a time of 26.92.

He went even faster in the semi-finals, establishing a world record of 27.74sec to claim his place in the final.

Once more, with medals up for grabs, Van der Burgh rose to the challenge and improved on his own world record to capture gold in 26.67 seconds, a mark that stands to this day and is unlikely to be challenged any time soon given the change in regulations regarding swimsuits since that time.

In November, he repeated as the overall winner of the Fina World Cup Series, despite being challenged by fellow South African Roland Schoeman in the 50 metres, with Schoeman twice managing to defeat the world record holder.

South African flag carrier

He captured two gold medals at the 2010 Commonwealth Games in Delhi, where he had the honour of carrying the South African flag, defeating a strong challenge from traditional powerhouse Australia, taking the 50m in 27.18 and the 100m in 1:00.10.

There was further World Championships success in 2010 for Van der Burgh in Dubai when he claimed gold in the 100m in 56.80sec and silver in the 50m in 26.03sec.

Last year, in 2011, Van der Burgh did the double of 50m and 100m golds at the All Africa Games in Maputo, winning both titles with some ease. He also picked up two bronze medals at the World Aquatics Championships in Shanghai.

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