Cameron enters Midmar Mile
Cameron van der Burgh (Gameplan Media)
Pietermaritzburg - The Midmar Mile has received a big boost with the confirmation of the entry Olympic gold medallist Cameron van der Burgh, who will participate in the event to raise money for charity.
Van der Burgh is the fastest man ever over 50m and 100m in the breaststroke, owning the world records in both long course and short course swimming pools. He captured the Olympic title in London in the 100 metres with a world record time of 58.46 seconds.
Midmar Mile Race Director Wayne Riddin, who was an assistant swimming coach with the South African team at the London Olympics, said he was thrilled to have Van der Burgh on board.
"Our big drive this year is with the Pink Drive and cancer," Riddin said. "The Cancer Association will be at the Midmar Mile with the Pink Drive, so what we thought of doing was to highlight the performance of Cameron van der Burgh at the Olympic Games last year, because I think it was a bit watered down by Chad le Clos' performances.
"Cameron actually had the performance that set the tone for the rest of the Olympics, so I felt I wanted to show what he's done for swimming and we've put him in an event in which he will swim the whole race breaststroke and raise funds for the Cancer Association.
"We want to let the people know, the 30 000 watching the Midmar Mile, that this is our best performer from the Olympic Games."
While Le Clos' gold medal in the 200m butterfly was a triumph for its shock value, Van der Burgh's came after a master-class of breaststroke swimming through the heats, semi-final and final.
In his first swim, in the heats, he broke the one-minute barrier, finishing three-hundredths of a second behind Daniel Gyurta of Hungary in 59.79 seconds.
Van der Burgh then lifted the level in the semi-finals, clocking an Olympic record 58.83 seconds to qualify 0.61 seconds faster for the final than the second fastest man.
With gold on the line, he once more rose to the challenge, touching the wall in a blistering world record of 58.46 seconds, almost half-a-second ahead of the second-place finisher, Christian Sprenger of Australia.
"It's going to be nice to have him there. He hasn't swum breaststroke over that distance before, I'm not even sure if he's swum the event before," said Riddin.
"His training partner Giulio Zorzi is coming down as well, and also Neil Versfeld, who has been our top 200 metres breaststroker for the last decade, and he's a Pietermaritzburg Seals' guy.
"To have people of that calibre swimming, not just stars like Katinka Hosszu and Keri-Anne Payne, but to have a guy like Cameron there, is a privilege.
The three South African breaststroke stars’ event will also feature other celebrities and swimmers with disabilities, including the limbless American Craig Dietz.
Riddin explained how Van der Burgh will raise money: "Cameron is going to do an on-the-day thing. We’re going to publicise it and people will be able to go to the Nivea stand and fill out forms and pledge R10 each. That’s a very small amount to pledge, and we’re going to see what we can raise while he is swimming. By the time he finishes swimming, we will close it and then he’ll hand out the hampers from a draw that Nivea have prepared as prizes for people who make pledges."
The Midmar Mile takes place on 9 and 10 February at the Midmar Dam, just outside Howick in the KwaZulu-Natal Midlands. For more info visit www.midmarmile.co.za