ÔÇ£I’m going to beat you over the next 12 months!” Gerhard Zandberg’s warning to British world 50 metres record-holder Liam Tancock was clear after the Tshwane star collected a bronze medal during the final session of the 13th FINA World Championships in Rome.
In clocking 24.34 secs to finish third in the 50 metres backstroke final┬ábehind Tancock (with a world record time of 24.04) and Japan’s Junya Koga (24.24), Zandberg ÔÇô the gold medallist from the 2007 World Championships in Melbourne ÔÇô was left smiling from ear to ear.
“There is no 50 metres backstroke event at the Olympic Games, so I will be working on my 100 metres backstroke swimming as well and have already warned Tancock and Koga that I will be chasing them down during the next year,” said Zandberg afterwards.
Koga won the gold medal in the 100 metres backstroke at the World┬áChampionships in 52.26, with Tancock tied for fourth with 52.73.
“I share a room at the SA team hotel with 50 metres breaststroke gold┬ámedallist and world record-holder Cameron van der Burgh,” said Zandberg.
“We call it the ‘Champions Room. At every major event one of us wins gold and we are delighted to have my bronze medal and the gold and bronze (100 metres breaststroke) won by Van der Burgh proudly displayed in our room.”
“I have not been training as much as I should have been between last year’s Beijing Olympics and these World Championships. I plan on going to Germany some time in the next few months to train with my former coach Dirk Lange. For now, I am just over the moon. I had a good start to the race, but those overhead backstroke flags towards the end of the 50 metres couldn’t come quick enough. I am just so happy to get a medal.”
Zandberg’s time was inside his previous best of 24.68 set in the heats and semi-finals and took the African record tally of times bettered at the World Championships to twenty.
All in all, of the 20 SA swimmers at the event, the aquatics squad competed in 10 finals at the world showpiece, with Zandberg (50 metres backstroke), Van der Bergh (50 and 100 metres breaststroke), Sebastien
Rousseau (200 metres butterfly), George du Rand (200 metres backstroke), Jean Basson (200 metres freestyle), the men’s 4 x 100 metres freestyle relay team and the men’s 4 x 200 metres freestyle relay unit, as well as Wendy Trott (800 and 1500 metres freestyle) having made it to the final stage of competition in the heat of Rome.
SA completed the championships with four medals courtesy of Zandberg, Van der Burgh (2) and Durban teenager Chad Ho, who won bronze in the 5km open water swim.