Defending Olympic 100-metre breaststroke champion, Cameron van der Burgh, predicts that it will take a world record to win gold in this event at the Rio Games later this year.
This means that Van der Burgh (Tuks/HPC) will be in for a very tough challenge. Apart from having to set a new world record, he will have to do what only one swimmer has been able to do before, namely to successfully defend his Olympic 100m breaststroke title.
Statistics show that Japan’s Kosuke Kitajima was the only swimmer who accomplished this feat since the 1968 Games in Mexico. He won the gold medal at the 2004 Games in Athens as well as in 2008 in Beijing. In 2012 Van der Burgh won in London.
Judging by what has been happening over the past four years as far as the 100m breaststroke world record is concerned, it seem like the South African and Britain’s Adam Peaty will be the main protagonists in the final in Rio this year. Van der Burgh set a world record with his gold medal performance in London by winning in 58.46 seconds. This record was broken by Peaty last year when he swam 57.92.
In 2015, at the FINA World Championships in Kazan, Russia, Peaty won in 58.52 and Van der Burgh was second in 58.59.
‘Peaty is a great competitor. We have had a great rivalry going over the past three years and I can honestly say that he has spurred me on. Together we have taken breaststroke to new heights. If we had told somebody beforehand that we would be swimming these times I don’t think he would have believed us. We have pushed each other and learned from each other. I firmly believe that you are never too old to learn from somebody else,’ the Tuks/HPC- based swimmer said.
‘At the Games it will be a case of whoever is mentally toughest will win the gold medal. It is great to have a competitor of Peaty’s calibre because it makes the racing more exciting. My preparation has been going really well. You can say I am climbing the ladder to the top while Peaty is at the top where there is absolutely no room for error.’
Van der Burgh admitted that his ambition to win the gold medal is the main reason why he is prepared to make so many personal sacrifices.
‘The most important thing about winning an Olympic title is that it stays with you for life. World records get broken and sports fans don’t seem to really care who the world champions are. But when you win a gold medal at the Games you will be introduced as an Olympic Champion forever after. To be the first to touch the wall during the 100m breaststroke final at the London Games was definitely a life-changing experience for me and one of the proudest moments of my career. It is something I would like to repeat this year.’
The Tuks/HPC-swimer is going to Europe next week as part of his final preparation for Rio. He plans to compete in the Mare Nostrum Series, as well as in a few other events. He will also train in Turkey for two weeks before going to the SA training camp in Fort Lauderdale in the USA.
Picture courtesy of Reg Caldecott