New Delhi: Cameron van der Burgh has yet to take to the water at the Commonwealth Games but for him he has already won a gold medal. ÔÇ£Carrying the flag at the opening ceremony is such a privilege and honour that I feel like I’ve already won the first gold.ÔÇØ
Van der Burgh was one of four medal contenders who faced the international media here on Saturday, and all ÔÇô the others being Roland Schoeman, Natalie du Toit and Wendy Trott ÔÇô expressed their delight at being here and their determination to do well. While Van der Burgh might be carrying the flag, the entire squad will be flying it.
ÔÇ£I’m still a little tired from the long flight from Johannesburg, but with a bit more rest and relaxation I’ll be ready. I have high hopes, things have gone well. There’s an amazing vibe here and I’m hoping for good things, with the 100m being my main focus.ÔÇØ
At last year’s world championships Van der Burgh, a 22-year-old Pretoria-based breaststroker, collected gold in the 50m and bronze in the 100m. However, at these Commonwealth Games, he’s hoping to improve on that, and explained his desire for the 100m.
ÔÇ£It’s an Olympic event and the 50m isn’t. Since I was a little boy I wanted to be an Olympic champion and the Commonwealth is a good place to start building towards that dream. One of the reasons I won 50m gold at the world championships last year was because the event came after the 100m in the programme, and I was just so happy to have won a bronze that I went into the 50m on such a high,ÔÇØ he added.
Talking of highs, Van der Burgh has been blown away by the spirit in the South African camp and the interaction between Commonwealth athletes in the village itself.
ÔÇ£It’s like someone has thrown Prozac in the water. Everyone is on such a buzz!ÔÇØ he said.
Van der Burgh was then asked if the no-show of track and field athletes Khotso Mokoena and Simon Magakwa, as well as the withdrawing on medical grounds of 800m world champions Mbulaeni Mulaudzi and Caster Semenya, had an adverse effect on the squad.
ÔÇ£Yes, it’s a shame that they’re not here but no one is mulling over it. And it’s not as if it’s a team sport like soccer, rugby or cricket and we’re not reliant on them being here.ÔÇØ
Van der Burgh will be in action on Tuesday in the 100m with heats in the morning and the semi-finals in the evening (Delhi time). But South Africa, set your clocks for 1.52pm on Wednesday. Because by 1.54pm we could well be toasting a 100m Commonwealth Games gold medallist.
ÔÇ£It’s not about looking at world records, the time isn’t that important, it’s all about the result,ÔÇØ he added, emphasising the importance and prestige.
This is Van der Burgh’s first Commonwealth Games but it won’t be his last.