By Kevin McCallum
New Delhi - Cameron van der Burgh had a special message for New Delhi and the rest of the world from South Africa written on the palms of his hands after he had won his country’s third gold medal at the 19th Commonwealth Games yesterday afternoon.
Ke Nako was scrawled in thick, black, waterproof ink, spread across the width of the hands that had cupped and pulled him to victory.
“It’s our time to shine,” said Van der Burgh, who had broken the Commonwealth Games record to win the 100m breaststroke in 1 minute 0.10 seconds.
The spirit of the World Cup runs strong in the swimmer, as it does in the rest of this young swimming team at the Games.
It was a good day for South Africa in the pool yesterday after the country won three medals in the pool and one in wrestling, taking its total to nine.
Roland Schoeman was disappointed at having to settle for bronze in the 50m butterfly as the defending champion, although the youthful 4x200m freestyle relay team were all high-fiving each other after their third place.
Dean van Zyl won bronze in the 74kg Greco-Roman wrestling category to take the tally to nine. But the golden boy yesterday was Van der Burgh.
“There was so much pain at the end of the final lap, so much pain,” he grimaced.
“I tell you what, carrying the flag was a lot easier than this. The last 10 metres I could feel the burn. I knew the guys were coming, but I just kept going.”
That he did in a rhythm of “ke nako, ke nako, ke nako”. That World Cup phrase might just have legs now that the World Cup is just a memory.
Van der Burgh has created a quintessential South African moment, a picture that will endure as long as Francois Pienaar and Madiba in 1995, Josia Thugwane in 1996 and the Awesome Foursome swimmers in 2004.
Van der Burgh, a Pretoria boy born, bred and trained, is a rare breed in a country that has a history of having to send its best swimmers to universities in the US to fine-tune their craft. He is living the South African dream.