Cameron, Peaty set for epic Olympic battle
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Winning the Olympic gold medal in a world-record time of 58.46 seconds had been the greatest high in Cameron van der Burgh’s illustrious swimming career.
Reaching the pinnacle of his sport had been the result of years of hard work winning South Africa’s first medal of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.
Van der Burgh found the ascension from cloud nine hard to deal with as he suffered a bit of post-Olympic depression.
This was evident in his swimming, and one could sense the passion he had once exuded had been drained in the two years following the Games.
Despite the reduced enthusiasm, Van der Burgh still won the 50m breaststroke gold medal and finishing second in the 100m event at the 2013 Fina World Championships.
A niggling shoulder injury compounded his woes in 2014 which also see the emergence of Van der Burgh’s bête noire.
It was the year British teenager Adam Peaty would rise to prominence sparking one of the great swimming rivalries of the last few years.
Peaty first upset Van der Burgh in the 100m breaststroke at the Glasgow Commonwealth Games beating the South African into silver.
Van der Burgh made amends in the shorter distance retaining his title from four years earlier.
The Englishman would eventually break Van der Burgh’s long-course 50m and 100m world records first clocking 26.62 seconds in the sprint event at the European Championships in Berlin in August.
In early 2015 Peaty became the first man to break through the 58-second barrier by shaving 0.54 seconds off Van der Burgh’s 100m breaststroke record at the 2015 British Nationals.
Last year also proved to be a turning point for Van der Burgh has he managed to shake off the injury woes, and fall back in love with the sport.
While Peaty was setting the pace in the build-up to the Fina World Championships, Van der Burgh was quietly regaining his confidence.
Their much-anticipated tussle at the championships lived up to the hype has the two exchanged blows like two heavyweight boxers.
Van der Burgh demonstrated he would be no pushover improving his 50m breaststroke record by 0.05 seconds with a time of 26.62s in the heats before Peaty improved that time by 0.2s in the semi-finals.
Peaty went on to win the sprint title out-touching Van der Burgh by 0.15s to set up another mouthwatering tussle in the 100m breaststroke.
The Briton won the event by a fraction hitting the wall 0.07s ahead of the South African to win a rare breaststroke double.
Although Van der Burgh was beaten to the wall twice, it was by no means an easy victory for Peaty.
Van der Burgh continued to show-off his new-found love for the sport with an unbeaten run in in the Fina World Cup series winning a total of 15 gold medals - seven in the 50m and eight in the 100m event - to win his third series.
In the final event of the series in Dubai he claimed a psychological edge over Peaty beating him in both the 50m and the 100m breaststroke.
While he has always dabbled with the idea of adding the 200m breaststroke to his repertoire, Van der Burgh has shown the speed at this year’s SA Swimming Championships in Durban to warrant optimism over that distance.
However, the main priority for Van der Burgh will be to ward off a challenge by Peaty and the rest of the world hell-bent of stripping him of his 100m breaststroke title.– The Star