Road to London: Cameron vd Burgh

2012-03-30 11:24

Cape Town - In the third in a series of Q 'n A style interviews with South African sportsmen and women ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in London, Graeme Joffe chats to South African swimming sensation, Cameron van der Burgh.

Road to London: Bridgette Hartley

Road to London: Kate Woods

GRAEME JOFFE: One of SA’s real medal hopes in London, swimming star, Cameron van der Burgh.
CAMERON VAN DER BURGH: Hey, how’s it going guys?

JOFFE: We’re all good I think, how the London preps going, how many hours you spending in the pool these days?
VAN DER BURGH: Well, we are doing 35 hours of training a week combined with swimming, running, stretching, yoga and sleep is part of training these days.

JOFFE: So preparation going according to plan and what is your schedule leading up to the Olympics?
VAN DER BURGH: Ja, preparations are going extremely well. I was in Richards Bay for about two weeks, trying to just take myself away from Pretoria and all the distractions up there, and we have had two really great weeks down here, doing really hard training. We heading into our South African Nationals on the 16th of April and that will be our final qualification for the Olympics. After that we basing ourselves in Monaco, Princess Charlene has been very kind to accommodate us, and from there we will fly in and out to various competitions leading up until we move into the Olympic village.

JOFFE: Charlene Wittstock was a SA Olympic swimmer herself - so, a really great gesture in giving back and lending more than a hand to SA swimming.
VAN DER BURGH: She did South Africa proud as a swimmer and the  way that she is giving back and not forgetting about us, I think that is really big of her, and she is paving the way forward for us, so big ups to her.

JOFFE: Cameron, you are one of our real medal hopes in London in the 100m breaststroke - does that create added pressure for you, the big expectations?

VAN DER BURGH: Ja, there is a bit of pressure, but I think it is just the way that you deal with it and I think pressure is a privilege these days. You go in, you are one of the favourites, you want a medal, you are doing well, you are doing something right, so I am really happy to be in the situation where I do have the opportunity to win a medal. I am definitely going to grab it with both hands and try and do the best that I can for the country.  It’s my second Olympic Games, so I have a bit of experience behind my back, and I know what it is all about, so there is nothing surprising and I know the procedures obviously and you know, I am really prepared, been doing a lot of really great work. We start preparing for the one Olympics as the previous one ends, so we have been preparing for the last four years. Can't wait to get to London.

JOFFE: 2010, you won the 50m breastroke at the Commonwealth Games in a new games record time and you won the 100m at the Short Course World Championships. You’ve beaten some of the best in the world, so you must feel that you have a real great medal chance in London?
VAN DER BURGH: I have really been gearing myself up to the 100m although I am better suited for the 50m but that is just something I have to deal with and for the past three years, we have been adjusting and changing a lot of things and we have progressed every year. We’ve tried a lot of things, some things worked, some didn’t work, and what we have done is, taken everything that we have found did make a difference and we have now put it to good use this year, leading up into the preparations and I am really excited. I know I am in the best shape of my life, the only things that can really mess it up now, would be my mind set. You know you have the ability to do well, but it is just the pressure and I think the support that you get on the other side.

JOFFE: So, it will definitely be the 100 breaststroke for you and maybe also the 4x100 medley relay. Have you guys got a backstroker that has qualified yet or is that going to happen hopefully at the SA Champs.
VAN DER BURGH: Ja, hopefully it happens at the SA Champs, we don’t have a backstroker at the moment but you know there are one or two juniors who are really trying to qualify and are very close to the time. It’s always nice to have a relay and with swimming always being an individual sport, it is nice now and then to participate in and have a team effort.

JOFFE: You are locally based in Pretoria and if I look at most of our past swimmers who have medalled at Olympics, they’ve been based in the USA or been to US universities. Do you think you are at a disadvantage?
VAN DER BURGH: I think I am at an advantage, being at home you have a support base which is your family and your fellow South Africans. The situation for me was just different, at the age where you decide to go over for a year, so you stay in South Africa, and I had really great support. Luckily, I was able to swim fast enough and financially I was able to fund myself for a lot of international competitions and you know I think for me, at the time, staying in South Africa was the best choice. It has opened up a lot of doors for a lot of people. I am not saying that the US is a bad idea but you know, it is not the only choice, and I think if you have the opportunity to do well and swim in South Africa, I think you go for it, because that is the only way that we are going to build swimming in South Africa by letting South Africa and the rest of our young swimmers see quality swimming in our back yard. That is the only way they will get interested and come out to competitions and we can grow the sport.

JOFFE: Very valid point. Finally, SASCOC are very confident, they are talking about 12 medals in London.  It’s a big number compared to the one medal we got at the last Olympics. The swimmers, you guys are going to have to get at least 6 of those 12.
VAN DER BURGH: (laughter) Ja, you know it’s good to be optimistic about the medals, we did very well at the Commonwealth Games, obviously the Commonwealth Games is not the Olympics, but I think we have shown really great times and then SASCOC has put a lot of funding into swimming. They believe we can do well and I think there was the right approach over the last four years. We have had the opportunity to travel where we want, we just had to apply for what we need and keep it related to training and we benefit. From my point of view, you can't say SA is this and Australia is this, we have had all the opportunities and now we just need to perform. 

JOFFE: Cameron van der Burgh, great chatting to you on Sports Fire. Best of luck for the Olympics and look forward to seeing you on that podium in London.
VAN DER BURGH: Thank you so much, I really appreciate it, take care.

Catch Graeme Joffe on SportsFire every Monday and Thursday at 17:30 on Radio Today, 1485am in JHB, National on DStv audio channel 169 and streaming worldwide on Follow Graeme Joffe on Twitter: @joffersmyboy

Cameron van der Burgh, 23, represented South Africa at the 2008 Summer Olympics and has won numerous World Championship medals. Van der Burgh is the current world record holder in both the 25m and 50m short course events as well as the 50m long course. He was named Swimming World Magazine's African Swimmer of the Year from 2009-2011 and was FINA World Cup Overall Male Winner in 2008 and 2009.