Cameron van der Burgh, pictured, and Chad le Clos hogged the swimming limelight in 2011 with the former extending his reign as the country's king of the pool.

Cameron van der Burgh and Chad le Clos hogged the swimming limelight in 2011 with the former extending his reign as the country's king of the pool while the latter became the crown prince.

The duo provided a flicker of hope in an otherwise bleak year for South African swimming.

The national team placed a lowly 25th at the Fina World Championships in Shanghai, China, in July with three bronze medals – their worst performance since Barcelona in 2003.

Van der Burgh, the 50m breaststroke world record holder, won two bronze medals, in the 50m and 100m breaststroke, while Gerhard Zandberg finished third in the 50m backstroke.

Though he failed to successfully defend his world title in the shorter of his two specialist events, Van der Burgh made marked improvements in the 100m distance.

The 23-year-old made it clear that he would centre all his attention around the 100m, which is an Olympic event, in 2012. The shorter race is not on the schedule for London.

He also pocketed gold medals in the 50m and 100m breaststroke finals at the All Africa Games in Maputo, Mozambique, in September.

South African swimmers were in blistering form at the continental showpiece where they won 73 medals, admittedly against competition that gave little resistance.

Realistically, Van der Burgh's one medal at the Fina World Championships was a better indication of what the swimming squad needed in order to make serious inroads in the build-up to the London Games.

Le Clos, 19, produced sterling performances later in the year, however, elevating the country's Olympic medal hopes by winning the Swimming World Cup series.

He emulated Ryk Neethling and Van der Burgh, both former overall winners of the World Cup series, bagging 23 gold, 10 silver and two bronze medals for a total medal haul of 35.

The youngster affirmed his rise in the ranks, recording confidence-boosting victories over 14-time Olympic champion Michael Phelps.

Le Clos was also one of the standout swimmers at the All Africa Games, where he won three gold medals and a silver, along with 22-year-old Karin Prinsloo who bagged seven gold medals and a silver in five individual events and three relays.

Prinsloo also picked up five medals at the National Aquatic Championships in Port Elizabeth in April.

Amputee swimmer Natalie du Toit made a splash once again as she clinched three gold medals in Maputo after winning the 5km and 10km titles at the National Open Water Championships in Jeffreys Bay earlier in the year.

Younger swimmers showed immense potential, led by 16-year-old Vanessa Mohr, but will need to make the step-up to international level in the coming season.

Mohr made her breakthrough at national level when she won the 50m and 100m butterfly events at the national championships and went on to qualify for the global championships later in the year. – Sapa