Johannesburg - Giulio Zorzi claimed Team South Africa's 14th medal of the World Student Games, and their first in the swimming pool, in Kazan, Russia, on Monday.
Zorzi won gold in the men's 50m breaststroke final in 27.44, edging out Italian Andrea Toniato, the silver medallist, by 0.09 seconds.
"I'm really chuffed with myself," Zorzi said.
"I put in a good race tonight, which is always good in the final.
"I knew it was going to be tight, and in the 50m it's always about the touch and the little things, so I'm just happy I managed to get them right today."
Douglas Erasmus reached the men's 50m freestyle semifinals, where he finished eighth in his race and was eliminated from the event. Earlier, Luke Pendock had clocked 23.08 to miss out on a place in the penultimate round by 0.02 seconds.
In the women's 50m freestyle event, Trudi Maree touched the wall in 29.51 seconds in the semifinals, narrowly missing out on a place in the final.
Meanwhile, a late brace by Rafaela Travalao crushed South Africa's medal hopes on Monday in the women's football tournament.
The SA women, who put up another brave fight in the bronze medal playoff, took the lead in the 34th minute when Jermaine Seoposenwe found the back of the net.
And while they held the advantage well into the second half, Travalao scored twice within two minutes as the Brazilians snatched the lead with a little more than 20 minutes left in the match.
"One of the most important things in a football team is heart, and this team had heart," said SA captain Amanda Dlamini.
"It was also fun.
"Every game we played we made sure we enjoyed it, trusted each other and motivated each other."
Dlamini believed the likes of herself, a former Banyana Banyana skipper, and veteran strike Noko Matlou had boosted the squad in their campaign, which included a shock win over women's football giant Japan in the quarter-finals.
The SA men's hockey team fought back twice to beat Korea in the playoffs, taking fifth place in the tournament.
Inwoo Seo put Korea in front in the 12th minute, with Chad Cairncross equalising 10 minutes before half-time.
Seungju You and Jungpil Choi, however, scored on either side of the interval to regain the advantage for the Koreans.
The South Africans managed to maintain their composure and fought back from 3-1 down in the second half, with Dalan Phillips, Matt Guise-Brown and Grant Glutz scoring in the last 25 minutes of the match as they pulled off a stunning victory.
The SA rugby sevens team defeated Japan 28-14 in their final Group C match, scoring four tries to two, with Jarryd Buys dotting down his fourth five-pointer in three games.
The South Africans remained unbeaten at the top of the table as they coasted into the playoffs.
They will face Belgium in the quarter-finals on Tuesday.
In sprint canoeing, Calven Clack took ninth place, in 36.889 seconds, in the men's K1 200m final.
Ignas Navakauskas of Lithuania won gold in 34.311.