GOLD COAST – Despite the SA swimmers delivering exceptional results, it was Cameron van der Burgh that stood out as the top performer at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
Van der Burgh won the 50m breaststroke gold medal, retaining the title from Glasgow 2014. In doing so he beat Adam Peaty. The 23-year-old Brit is the world record holder, world champion, Olympic 100m champion and hadn’t been beaten in a final for four years. It was the biggest upset in the swimming pool at these Games.
Van der Burgh, who went on to claim a bronze in the 4x100m medley relay, had vowed to finish his Games career on a high and he’d been consistent in saying that the race, under the open-air conditions at night, would not be ‘world record fast’. It would be ‘a racer’s race’. And he outraced Peaty by 0.04 seconds, touching in 26.58 seconds.
In winning the 100m and 200m breaststroke, Tatjana Schoenmaker broke the South African record in both, and she did the same thing in the 50m, where she placed fourth. Her favourite event is the 200m and she’s now ranked second in the world.
Her 100m gold placed her fourth in the world. Schoenmaker is a huge talent and will should become significanlty quicker. She lowered two of the great Penny Heyns’ personal bests and then modestly said that ‘Penny produced those times when not wearing goggles, so imagine how good she was’. Heyns was good, in fact, one of the breaststroke legends. Shoenmaker is just starting her journey and much can be expected of her in what should be a long career.
Chad le Clos also had an unforgettable Commonwealth Games. The 25-year-old competing in his third Commonwealth Games has now collected 17 medals, one behind Australian shooter Phillip Adams’ all-time best.
Le Clos will have to wait for Birmingham 2022 to surge past that tally and put it out of reach of anyone for decades to come. Le Clos picked up three gold medals, a silver and a bronze and paid the price for swimming two finals inside 20 minutes when tiring in the 200m freestyle final.
The 100/200m butterfly ‘double’ gold was expected, and he even broke the Games record in the 100m (50.65). Arguably the 100m freestyle final and the 100m butterfly leg in the 4x100m medley relay – efforts which secured ‘only’ a silver and a bronze – were his best performances of the Games.
He was just caught by the flying Scotsman, Duncan Scott, but finished ahead of Australia’s Olympic champion Kyle Chalmers and Cameron McEvoy. Le Clos is now regarded as one of the best 100m freestyle sprinters in the world. And, that was a huge statement for him to make in front of the Aussies, in their pool, in an event they are used to dominating over the years.