Cameron relives that golden moment in London

2012-08-18 00:00

HE is in Pietermaritzburg taking part in the South African Short Course Championships, but 100 metres breaststroke Olympic champion and world record holder Cameron van der Burgh still can’t get over what he achieved in London on July 29.

“There was a lot of relief,” he told Weekend Witness yesterday.

“It’s like if you study a degree for four years. But if you fail the exam you have to start all over again.”

Van der Burgh recalls the night he won. He was fortunate to have his entire immediate family and his girlfriend with him in London, something he says made the experience that much more memorable.

“Winning and being on the podium singing the national anthem was a phenomenal moment, but having my family to celebrate with me afterwards was the best thing I could have asked for,” he said.

Van der Burgh explained how his girlfriend was just as nervous as he was before the race, so much so that she had prepared two speeches — a winning speech and a losing speech — for when she first saw him after the race.

Thankfully, she got to deliver the “winning” speech.

The Pretoria-based swimmer acknowledged that he had celebrated with a beer or two after his win.

“After the press conferences we all went to a restaurant. Obviously I was quite fit, so you start feeling a little tipsy after a drink or two,” he laughed.

He has plans for a break soon.

“I have to take some time off and set new goals for Rio in 2016. We work in four-year plans. I haven’t even thought about Rio. All I’ve heard is that there are beautiful woman.”

Van der Burgh hopes that his and Chad le Clos’s successes fuel an interest in the sport in South Africa.

“We have a problem in South Africa and swimming isn’t really considered a professional sport yet and we don’t have an Olympic culture,” he said.

“When I retire I want to leave a legacy. Hopefully Chad and I are still going strong in Rio and we can have even more of an impact on young kids.”

But if all else fails, Van der Burgh will have a degree in financial management to fall back on. He is expecting to complete it through Unisa next year.

“I know that swimming can’t last forever and I want to be an entrepreneur,” he explained.

Van der Burgh recalls getting back to the airport in Johannesburg with Le Clos as the moment when everything sunk in.

“I hadn’t realised the magnitude of what we had done and the amount of support we had from back home until we landed in Johannesburg,” he said.

“But the whole journey is just something that will stay with me for the rest of my life. One day I’ll be telling my kids bedtime stories about this journey. And hopefully after Rio I’ll be able to tell them another one.”

• sport@witness.co.za

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