Johannesburg - Olympic gold medallist Ryk Neethling says Cameron van der Burgh’s superb swimming performance over the weekend indicated he was in control and set to win a medal at the London Olympic Games.
“He told me beforehand that if he dipped below one minute a couple of times he would be where he wanted to be,” said Neethling on Tuesday.
“That is exactly where he is now - he is in control like a nice BMW drive on a Sunday afternoon.”
Neethling, who was one of the stars of the 4x100-metre relay team which won gold and broke the world record at the Athens Olympics in 2004, said swimming marvel Chad le Clos was also a serious prospect.
While the 20-year-old Le Clos was still finding his feet in competitive swimming, Neethling felt he was making impressive strides.
“He is improving a lot, and at such a rate, he almost drops a second every time he races,” he said of Le Clos’ stellar rise in the pool.
“So if he can keep on doing this and, who knows what happens on the day, he could do it. There have been guys who won gold from lane eight."
Le Clos is the world short course record holder in the 200m butterfly and made a serious splash at last year’s Fina World Cup series.
“He is the type of guy that can do it, he should get to the final and then anything is possible especially at the age he is at now,” said Neethling.
“If he was a 28-year-old I would have said no, but he still so unpredictable and his youth gives him that edge.”
Le Clos has set his sights on six events at the Games but Neethling felt he was a serious contender in two events.
“I think his best chances are in the 200m individual medley and the 200m butterfly at the Olympic Games,” he said.
“It will be important how things happen in the next 60 days.
"I think he could do well so I don’t think it is only Cameron. We have a good young team.”
The SA Sports Confederation announced the first team for the Games, with the swimmers taking the lions’ share in terms of individual athletes.
“There are a couple of youngsters like Charl Crous, who does well in the backstroke and also the 4x400m medley relay team.
"If he swims a 53 with Cameron and Chad, then they may just surprise us,” Neethling said.
Having participated in four Olympic Games, the 34 year-old said he was concerned with the state of women’s swimming in the country and a mind shift was needed, in terms of how women swimmers were viewed.
“I think Swimming South Africa need to look at their structures at age group level if you look at the kids coming through,” he said.
“I think it is in our culture, as soon as our daughters turns 15 we don’t want them to have those broad shoulders.
“I thought Charlene Wittstock who became a princess would change it, but look how she looks now and if you look at Penny Heyns you wouldn’t even recognise her because she is thin and slightly built.”
Neethling’s advice to athletes going to the Games was to stick to their plans, believe in themselves, their coaches and the work they have done over the last four years.
“You should try and enjoy yourself because it is an unbelievable honour to go there.”