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Ken Borland

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Cameron & Chad win gold … and immense respect 0

Posted on January 16, 2013 by Ken

The Olympic medals around their necks were not all Cameron van der Burgh and Chad le Clos won in 2012.

Winners abound in sport and at the London Olympics there were 590 sportsmen and women who earned gold medals. But none of them could possibly be more charming, good-natured and likeable than the two South African swimmers who won immense respect not only for their performances against the odds, but also for the way in which they conducted themselves.

Swimming is not the easiest sport in which to excel. From a young age, hopefuls have to spend hours, normally around the crack of dawn, training in the water. It’s cold and we all know what else happens in water when people spend hours in it…

Swimming meetings take a long time and only those at the absolute pinnacle of the sport get to make large sums of money out of it. For South Africans, there is the added complication of the sport not being part of the mainstream and our young talent has to put up with sub-standard facilities and financial hardship, or go and train in one of the swimming powerhouses like the United States. Countries like the U.S., China, Australia and Japan boast massive swimming programmes and yet our “underprivileged” South African swimmers can still beat them on the greatest stage.

For Le Clos to win the 200m butterfly, he had to overcome his childhood hero and the greatest Olympic swimmer ever, Michael Phelps.

Van der Burgh had to put the tragic death, just three months earlier, of his friend and competitor Alex Dale Oen, who died of a heart attack aged 26, behind him as he won the 100m breaststroke in a world record time.

Winning Olympic gold does not come easy and Van der Burgh typified the determination required when, as a 16-year-old, he broke his ankle but kept going to gym to keep the rest of his body toned.

Van der Burgh’s younger years were clouded by a mild form of ADD, with his parents pushing him in the direction of sport rather than Ritalin, which dampened his spirit.

Even his preparation for the 2012 Games was disrupted, with coach Dirk Lange moving back to Germany and his local coach also leaving the country unexpectedly. Van der Burgh had to fly to Richard’s Bay for two days a week to work on technical matters with a former coach, Francois Boshoff. And then he flew Lange out for some intensive training just before the Olympics.

Van der Burgh, the first South African-based swimmer to win Olympic gold, was followed to the top of the podium two days later by Le Clos, the 2012 African Swimmer of the Year, coincidentally taking the title from his countryman who had won it the previous three years.

The 20-year-old Le Clos, with his boyish smile and the most supportive of fathers at poolside, was one of the media darlings of the 2012 London Games and was the most Googled South African of the year.

If he can ensure the trappings of celebrity don’t undermine his day job, then Le Clos can begin positioning himself as Phelps’ successor as the King of the Pool. The determination and the brilliant way in which he executed the race-day strategy in beating Phelps in London show Le Clos has what it takes to increase the medal haul from one gold and one silver when Rio 2016 comes around.

Chad & Cameron put childhood habits aside in new lives 0

Posted on August 09, 2012 by Ken

Habits that they have had since childhood will now be put aside as South African swimming gold medallists Chad le Clos and Cameron van der Burgh get used to their changed lives after the London Olympic Games.

The pair of Olympic champions returned to Johannesburg early on Thursday morning to a tumultous welcome and tried to make sense of their achievements in a press conference with sports minister Fikile Mbalula that was broadcast live on all three of South Africa’s main television stations.

“I woke up on the plane this morning and was turning on my phone and I had to put my pin number in. That’s when I realised that since the age of 10 I’ve been using 2012 as my pin number. But now that I’ve won gold in the 2012 Olympics, I’ve achieved that goal and, for the first time in 14 years, I’ll have to change my pin!” Van der Burgh, the winner of the 100m breaststroke in a world record time of 48.46 seconds, said.

Le Clos snatched gold in the final stroke of the 200m butterfly from American Michael Phelps, who has retired as the most successful Olympian in history with 18 golds and 22 medals overall, and the 20-year-old from Durban in KwaZulu-Natal said he was still coming to terms with beating his hero.

“It was a very special Olympic Games for me, and the last time I race against Michael Phelps. He is such an inspiration for me and the last time we met before the Olympics, I was asking him for hundreds of photos and his caps and goggles! I’m still a great fan of his and it was the most overwhelming feeling to beat him. It just shows that you should never give up on your dreams, no matter how far behind you are in the race,” Le Clos said.

Both swimmers committed themselves to ensuring South Africa build on their London success and win more medals in the pool at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Games. Le Clos added a silver medal in the 100m butterfly to lift South Africa to fifth in the table, ahead of aquatics powerhouses such as Australia and Russia.

“Chad and I spoke about it on the flight from London and we have the opportunity to change South African swimming, we really want to take swimming forward. South Africa only has five or six thousand registered swimmers, while Australia and Germany have 150 000 and the USA 300 000. But we still finished in the top five. There’s such a field of talent here, we just need to refine it better, we need to keep this momentum going and not kill it,” Van der Burgh said.

“In 2016, we’ll obviously have targets on our back, which means more responsibility and added pressure for us. But that just makes me excited to get back in the pool and train harder,” Le Clos said.

“There’s a lot of potential for 2016 and the Commonwealth Games in 2014 and we need to keep the momentum going. We have the platform now to build and we’ve changed the way people perceive swimming. We need to keep it going, let’s do this!”

South Africa’s head swim coach, Graham Hill, said he expected more success in 2016.

“We’ve only just begun and in 2016 these two young guys will be well and truly prepared, plus there’s a lot of young talent that wasn’t at these Olympic Games. So it all looks good for the future,” Hill said.

Van der Burgh also brushed off criticism that his mode of swimming the breaststroke included extra illegal “dolphin kicks” under the water.

“Unfortunately I’ve been the victim of some Australian press. I’ve never been disqualified or even warned once in my career and there were six different judges watching me in all my races from the heats to the final. They’re not there for a holiday and I was cleared,” Van der Burgh said.

With hundreds of supporters at the airport just after sunrise to welcome the swimmers home, even though it was a public holiday (Women’s Day) in South Africa, the air was thick with jubilation and Mbalula pledged further government support for swimming.

“We have got to prioritise going into the next Olympics and it begins tomorrow. We cannot plough money where we get no results, but swimming always delivers, even when all else fails. Government has got to come to the party and support young children who want to swim in Gugulethu or Mitchell’s Plain [deprived former apartheid townships].

“The media and public must put pressure on government to invest in sport, so we can compete with Australia and their 20-year sports plan. We did that easily at these Olympics with zero budget,” Mbalula said.


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    Mark 7:8 – “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

    Our foundation must be absolute surrender, devotion and obedience to God, rising from pure love for him. Jesus Christ must be central in all things and his will must take precedence over the will of people, regardless of how well-meaning they may be.

    Surrender yourself unconditionally to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then you will be able to identify what is of man with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Then you will be able to serve – in love! – according to God’s will.

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