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Cameron the Conqueror

Delhi: Cameron van der Burgh confirmed his arrival at the top of the swimming tree by winning his first major 100m breaststroke long-course title with gold at the Commonwealth Games.

It was a spectacular display by the 22-year-old who is walking on air at the moment. The holder of three world records (two short-course and one long-course, 50m), he kept two Australians at bay in taking gold ÔÇô and one was the world 100m champion, the other the world 100m record holder.

ÔÇ£It’s just been such a great week. First I got to carry the South African flag in my first Comonwealth Games and now I’ve won this. It’s a special moment. I am the world 50m champion but the 100m is an Olympic event (the shorter one isn’t) and I can only work towards my dream of Olympic gold in 2012,ÔÇØ an elated Van der Burgh said.

He led Wednesday’s race from start to finish, hitting the wall in a Commonwealth record of 1min 00.10sec. ÔÇ£The record is great to have but it was about the gold. I knew I was in front and just kept goingÔÇØ he added. ÔÇ£Now I can go out and enjoy the 50m (on Thursday).ÔÇØ

On Thursday, Natalie du Toit should win gold in the S9 100m freestyle to maintain the country’s record of gold in the pool on every day of competition. There were two more medals in the pool on Wednesday.

Roland Schoeman fought right until the last stroke to retain his Commonwealth Games 50m butterfly title, but ultimately fell agonisingly short. Just 0.12 seconds covered first to third as Jason Dunford produced Kenya’s first-ever swimming gold in 23.35, followed by Australia’s comeback kid Geoff Huegill (23.37) and the South African in 23.44.

Schoeman got off to a good start as the field powered down the straight and around the 40m mark it looked as though the champion would hold off Dunford for the first time in their three swims against each other this week. But, in the lunge and touch for the wall, the timer told the story of how close it was.

The men’s 4x200m freestyle team of Jean Basson, Darian Townsend, Chad le Clos and Jan Venter picked up a bronze medal that vindicated all the work that has gone into their relay development over the last two years. There were emotional scenes in the warm-down area as this close knit unit celebrated how far they’ve come. Many more celebrations await in the years ahead.

Wise old heads have been calling Gideon Louw the heir apparent to Roland Schoeman in the men’s 100m freestyle for a while now and the speedster showed those predictions are spot on when he qualified third for the showpiece final to be swum on Thursday night.

There was further good news when his 4x100m teammate from the squad that captured the bronze medal on Monday, Graeme Moore, also qualified for the final after producing two quality swims on the day. To have two finalists from two entrants ÔÇô Schoeman earlier withdrew to conserve energy for the 50m butterfly and 50m free ÔÇô shows that the future of South African sprinting is in good hands.

Australian Eamon Sullivan, in the first semi, qualified fastest, while Brett Hayden won the second semi, from Louw (49.28), with Moore’s 49.53 also putting himself in contention.

So far South Africa’s medal haul from the first three days in the water has been three golds and a two bronzes, and there’s every opportunity of adding to that tally again on Thursday.

The men’s hockey team will have their work cut out after a 4-2 defeat to New Zealand, and the Proteas’ netball squad beat Papua New Guinea 40-26 but their next match against the mighty Kiwis is likely to end their medal hopes.

Two injuries hit the camp on Wednesday: cyclist Bernard Esterhuizen had a heavy fall on the track and weightlifter Mona Pretorius damaged a calf.