Olympics 2012

Chad, Cameron back home

2012-08-09 11:06
Cameron van der Burgh and Chad le Clos (Gallo Images)
Johannesburg - Vuvuzelas droned and South African flags fluttered as Olympic medallists Cameron van der Burgh and Chad le Clos arrived to an enthusiastic reception at OR Tambo International Airport on Thursday morning.

Seeing the crowds waiting for him prompted a similar feeling to his reaction upon realising he had won a gold medal, Le Clos said.

"I could never tell you how it felt (to win a gold medal), because it's the most overwhelming feeling. The closest thing to it is coming into the airport... I never dreamed it would be this big."

Van der Burgh said the sight of his own face on posters displayed by the welcoming crowds moved him.

"To walk out and see pictures of me hanging from railings and on posters...It's emotional."

As he arrived in South Africa, he turned on his cellphone and realised he would have to change his pin code, the same he had had since the age of 10, "2012".

"That was my dream," he said.

Hundreds of people welcomed the swimming team back home on a cold Thursday morning. One of the placards being displayed read: "Chad will you be my matric dance date?"

Children climbed onto their parent's shoulders and people craned their necks and looked for any vantage point to see the swimming stars.

Also present, in uniform, were dozens of students from Crawford College, Van der Burgh's alma mater.

"It just makes you feel proud," Crawford student and swimmer Robert Walker said.

Walker said knowing Van der Burgh came from the same swimming team as he did showed him what he could achieve.

"It inspires."

Particularly enthused were the women, who were excited to see the two "Golden Boys".

"I just came to meet Cameron, and you must not forget Chad," said Danielle Moutsatsos, before adding "and to support Team SA".

Another fan, Thomas Ngoma, started out the morning wearing a brown hat, but was moved by national pride and soon switched to a beanie in South African colours.

"This is South Africa. These are our guys and we must support them at all times," Ngoma said.

Van der Burgh and Le Clos said at a press briefing following their arrival that their medals proved what South African swimmers could achieve. They were looking to build on that success with the whole country.

"Let's start together and make this thing bigger," Van der Burgh said. "We promise to do our best for South Africa, like you have done for us."

Van der Burg and Le Clos were accompanied by representatives from SA swimming, the SA Sports Confederation and Olympic Committee, and Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula.

Mbalula said the two had proved South Africa's swimmers could succeed, and noted that the two had depended on financial support from their families for training. He said the government would have to provide more support if the country was to produce more champions.

"From the side of government, we have to come to the party," Mbalula said.

"I want you as media to put pressure on government."

The minister argued sport was the only thing that could bring all South Africans together. He thanked the two for their contribution to the nation.

"You will go down in history as heroes of our people," Mbalula said.

Van der Burgh won a gold medal in London on Sunday, July 29, for winning the 100m breaststroke in a world-record time of 58.46.

Le Clos snatched gold from United States swimmer Michael Phelps in the 200m butterfly final on July 31. On August 3 Phelps beat him in the 100m butterfly. He won a silver medal, tying for second in 51.44.


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