It was meant to be a day of celebration for Cameron van der Burgh. But by lunch time on Friday, the Commonwealth and World Champion swimmer’s 24th birthday had turned into a nightmare. In a home burglary half of his trophy and medal collection was stolen.
The swimmer’s parents’ home in Pretoria was broken into and ransacked on Friday. His mother discovered the crime when she returned from a shopping trip.
“I had left for swim practice and my mum had gone out to the shops to grab a few things for my birthday party, so nobody was at home,” Van der Burgh told the Saturday Star on Friday night.
“When my mum got home she could not believe her eyes. Almost everything had been taken. They broke through all our security bars and robbed us in broad daylight. I cannot believe this.”
He was distraught to find his most prized possessions gone.
“Around half of my medals and trophies were stolen, I am heartbroken. I know that insurance will definitely pay out, but that’s not the issue. There is no way to replace the medals and trophies that I won. It’s not like I can go and buy myself new ones,” said Van der Burgh, who will represent SA at the London Olympics.
“I’m really glad that nobody got hurt though, because that is the most important thing.”
He plans to contact the international swimming body to see if it is possible to replace the stolen medals. “It’s going to be very difficult to replace them as each medal and trophy that I won was made in a different country, and to replace them would be near impossible.”
Van der Burgh said he was also unhappy with the way the police had dealt with the case.
“When I got home from practice I called the police immediately, but they came half an hour later. On top of that none of the police officers even checked for any fingerprints…”
He is leaving for a training camp in Europe on Tuesday prior to the London Games, but said he feared that that the burglary had caused him to lose focus on the Olympics.
“Before the incident I was 100 percent focused on the upcoming games, now I have lost some of that focus.”
They planned to go ahead with his party last night, despite the break-in. “At the end of the day nobody was hurt and we should be thankful, so my mum and I thought, why not go ahead with the party and have a good time, and put the incident behind us.”
Should he win a medal at the London Olympics, Van der Burgh said he planned to lock it up somewhere safe. “I have definitely learnt my lesson. I use to display all my medals in my room, but from now on I will give them to the bank for safekeeping,” he said.
Van der Burgh represented SA at the 2008 Summer Olympics and has won numerous world championship medals.
He is the current world record holder in both the 25m and 50m short course events as well as the 50m long course.
He was also named Swimming World magazine’s African Swimmer of the Year from 2009 to 2011 and was Fina World Cup Overall Male Winner in 2008 and 2009.