Glasgow - Roland Schoeman picked up the 11th Commonwealth Games medal
of his glittering career as he earned South Africa’s first silver medal at
Glasgow 2014, beating home compatriot Chad le Clos into third place in the
men’s 50m butterfly final on Friday night, SASCOC's official website reports.
And Sebastien Rousseau also contributed to the medals tally with a fighting bronze in the 400m individual medley, after he had built up a considerable lead with 75m to go. He was caught on the final lap as Scotland’s Daniel Wallace surged home in 4:11.20.
There is the promise of more to come on Saturday from Cameron van der Burgh, the Olympic 100m breaststroke champion. He qualified comfortably and then proclaimed himself ‘happy’ and ‘not showing all his cards right now’ leading into the final.
Before the evening’s swimming programme, Team South Africa had nudged up to three bronze medals - two from judo - before Schoeman, Rousseau and Le Clos pushed that tally to six.
"Eleven Commonwealth Games medals is something special," said Schoeman after swimming his fastest time in these championships in eight years, his 20.13sec being 0.01 quicker than the record time he set in Melbourne in 2006.
"If you told me a week ago that I’d swim a 23.2 here a week ago I wouldn’t have believed you," said Le Clos after he took bronze in 23.36, having timed 23.29 in the semi-finals.
Both South Africans were clearly elated. "Ben Proud was just too fast on the night, and congratulations to him," said Schoeman after the Englishman stopped the clock in a Games record 22.93.
Both returned to the pool less than two hours later to help South Africa’s 4x100m freestyle team in their medal cause.
Le Clos still has his sights on a record seven medals in Glasgow. "This is a good start, although after the semi-finals I thought about it (gold) and it would also have given me the chance to get the triple (50, 100 and 200m) which hasn’t been done before."
On the night Proud was simply too quick. He led off in lane four, the meat in a South Africans sandwich and the order remained unchanged from the start. Proud got in front, being chased hard by Schoeman with Le Clos never looking like he would be able to get to the front two.
Both Schoeman and Le Clos are at different stages of their careers, but the ambitions that burn inside both burn equally as bright. "I have a great day job, swimming, meeting great people, travelling the world. I’m healthy, in great shape at the age of 34 and enjoying my swimming. I’m taking things one day at a time but if I swim in Rio I will be the first to compete in five Olympics," Schoeman said.
Le Clos has come to Glasgow in terrific shape and looked a nailed on certainty to win the 100 and 200m butterfly, while he also has eyes on the 200m individual medley and three relays – the first of which was Friday night’s 4x100m freestyle.
Van der Burgh too has looked relaxed. He dipped under the minute barrier in his semi-final, being touched off late by Scotland’s Ross Murdoch (59.72) and then declared himself to be in shape to go under 59 seconds in the final. "There might be a few high 58s, but I love the rush of finals," he added.
Rousseau controlled the 400m IM from the start and held a commanding advantage after strong butterfly, backstroke and breaststroke legs, but he was raced out of it in the last lap as Scotland’s Wallace hunted him down, before Australian Thomas Fraser-Holmes also got past him.