Golden sunset as Cameron van der Burgh retires from swimming

12 December 2018 - 17:24 By David Isaacson
South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh smiles after winning the swimming men's 50m breaststroke final during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games at the Optus Aquatic Centre in the Gold Coast on April 9, 2018.
South Africa's Cameron van der Burgh smiles after winning the swimming men's 50m breaststroke final during the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth Games at the Optus Aquatic Centre in the Gold Coast on April 9, 2018.
Image: Anthony WALLACE / AFP

Cameron van der Burgh won the fifth world championship gold medal of his career on Wednesday and then confirmed his retirement.

The newly married 30-year-old‚ who recently relocated to London to pursue a career in finance‚ claimed victory in the 100m breaststroke in a 56.01sec championship record at the short-course (25m pool) showpiece in Hangzhou‚ China.

Van der Burgh‚ the Olympic champion at London 2012 and silver medallist in Rio four years later‚ made the podium at every world championship gala in which he competed‚ starting with his debut as a teenager at the 2007 long-course (50m pool) showpiece in Melbourne‚ amassing 17 medals in total.

Over the years he’s missed only the 2012 short-course gala.

Van der Burgh was chuffed with his victory.

“It means to the world to me. It is my last race‚ so I am extremely happy‚” he said in quotes released by race organisers.

“The world championship means a lot. It is the last one. It is sad but I am happy to end on a high‚” he added‚ saying he had to fight incredible pain over the final metres.

“The last 25 metres was the most pain I have ever had in my life in swimming‚ so it was a good way to finish.

“It is funny how these things turn out. At least I have no loose ends to tie up or reason to come back.”

Van der Burgh edged Ilya Shymanovich of Belarus by nine-hundredths of a second.

“When I made the turn at 75 metres I knew I had a good chance and I had to hold on.

“Luckily it wasn’t one metre more or I would have lost that one‚” said Van der Burgh‚ who still owns the 100m and 50m breaststroke short-course world records (55.61 and 25.25).

Van der Burgh also spoke of fighting through terrible pain when he won the Olympic gold in a then world record‚ and this year he conquered his nemesis‚ Briton Adam Peaty‚ to win the 50m breaststroke at the Commonwealth Games in Gold Coast‚ Australia.

That victory — considered a major upset — was one of the most rewarding of his career.

In other SA action in China on the day‚ Chad Le Clos qualified for Thursday’s 100m butterfly final where he will go up against new American star Caeleb Dressel.

Le Clos won his semifinal in 49.07‚ with Dressel going even quicker in the other eliminator‚ touching the wall in 48.93.

Dressel dethroned Le Clos as the long-course world 100m fly champion in Budapest last year‚ but Le Clos‚ who took silver in the 200m butterfly on Tuesday‚ owns the short-course world record of 48.08.

Erin Gallagher qualified for the women’s 100m freestyle final on Thursday after finishing sixth in her semifinal for an overall seeding of seventh.

She clocked a 52.07 African record.

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