By Mark Etheridge
One of Team South Africa’s main medal hopes at the London Olympics, Cameron van der Burgh is in “a good place” right now with less than 100 days to go to lift-off.
Champion swimmer Van der Burgh was in Cape Town recently for a few magazine photo shoots and took time out to keep Road to London 2012 abreast of the situation.
“I must say I’m feeling really, really, well right now, have done a whole lot of training now and everything’s just going superbly.”
What’s changed in his regime for him to be feeling so upbeat as the stress mounts before the Games. “I’ve just been making all the right decisions, I’ve basically stopped messing about with training in 25-metre pools and am now training in a 50m pool in Hillcrest, Pretoria ÔÇô I’ve got my own lane as well ÔÇô and it’s all just going so well.”
The Pretoria athlete currently finds himself sitting at fourth on the FINA world rankings for the 100m breast event for 2012 after this 59.90 at the nationals in Durban last month. Japan’s Kosuke Kitjajima’s 58.80 at his national trials is the world-leader.
Australian Brenton Rickard lays claim to the world record with his 58.58 swum at world’s in Rome three years ago.
Van der Burgh, the 50m breaststroke world record-holder, missed the Fina World Cup last year and he reckons it was a good choice. “I got a huge amount of training inÔÇª I didn’t taper much for nationals and now I can feel my speed in phenomenal, I’m really quick in the water right now.”
But it┬á hasn’t been all plain sailing. Both the swimming world and Van der Burgh’s world were rocked by the death of Norway’s Olympic 100m breast silver medallist Alex Oen from suspected cardiac arrest after a training session in the US recently.
And while Van der Burgh is clearly deeply saddened by the death of both a competitor and close friend, he’s channelling the emotions in the right direction. “Since Dale’s death I kind of feel him inside me right now and I genuinely think if he had ever wanted someone to help his spirit it would have been meÔÇª we were best mates.
“I was in the middle of a huge training session when I heard the news and it was so draining, a huge anti-climax.”
Will winning or medalling be easier after the loss of One? “Dale’s death does definitely take something away from the competition but its an individual sport and technically it’s one guy less to beat but obviously at this level you’re planning on beating everyone to get gold. But I would have liked to have been able to swim against him and beat him on the day.”
When it comes to matters of the head and not the heart Van der Burgh has the mental skills of sports psychologist Dr Henning Gericke to fall back on. “Ja, mentally I’m in a good spot now and Henning has been great. The great thing about him is that I can call him up anytime and just chat and he’s great for just keeping everything in balance and in perspective.
“One thing’s for sure though that Alex’s death has seen me looking at taking each day as it comes .. because you just never know what’s happening.”
As for Oen’s early passing, a health scare that triggered waves of angst in the sports fraternity ,Van der Burgh says: ” I think it gave a lot of people a big fright .. and I’m planing on going for an ECG shortlyÔÇª luckily I have a mate who is a cardiologist, a good mate to have!”
As far his schedule looks, Van der Burgh says he’s currently in a high-intensity phase. “Late last year and earlier this year it was all about huge bulk. Now we’re going into racing phase and then I’ll start tapering about 20 days before my race in London.”
To this effect he’ll swim all this year’s Mare Nostrum events in Europe┬á ÔÇô in Barcelona, Canet and Monte Carlo.
Then, come the Games in London (and his event is on the opening weekend of the Games) hopefully all the hard training will culminate in the golden phase!